It took nearly 20 years, but West Meadows residents now have their first traffic signal.
Last week, the Tampa transportation department unveiled a traffic light at New Tampa Boulevard and Wood Sage Drive. It has been operating strictly in flashing mode to give motorists time to become accustomed to it.
Until recently, the community’s main artery, New Tampa Boulevard, began at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard across the intersection from Cross Creek Boulevard and extended southwest to near Interstate 75, where it came to a dead end.
But the opening of a an I-75 overpass bridge, connecting West Meadows and Tampa Palms by way of New Tampa and Commerce Park boulevards near Freedom High, created the need to control traffic flow.
Plans for the traffic signal were in the works before construction began on the New Tampa Boulevard overpass bridge more than two years ago. The bridge opened Feb. 27.
Reaction to the traffic signal has been mixed. Some see it as a needed safety device for Clark Elementary students and pedestrians who cross New Tampa Boulevard. Others plan to take a more measured approach to determine the impact on the community.
“I actually haven’t been out to see it during the morning school hours,” said Evelyn Romano, a member of the Tampa Palms Open Space and Transportation (TPOST) Community Development District Board of Supervisors. “That was the reason they installed it to help with traffic on Wood Sage near the school.
Clark Elementary at 19002 Wood Sage Drive opened in 1998, a couple years after home construction was under way in the 900-acre residential development. In the years since, school buses and parents who drive their children to school have had to wait for breaks in traffic at New Tampa Boulevard and Wood Sage Drive.
Romano expects to have a much clearer perspective about the traffic signal by the summer, she said.
“It seems to be working alright, so far,” Romano said. “It’s going to take time. … It is something we will be observing over the long haul.”
Clark Elementary PTA President Jennifer Larose said the city took appropriate steps to increase safety measures in the area.
Larose, who drives her child from the Cross Creek area to school, said she hasn’t experienced the same traffic problems as other parents but is aware of them.
“I’m hoping it will get people to slow down near the school,” Larose said.
Brad van Rooyen, a TPOST district board member who also serves as president of the West Meadows and Promenade homeowners associations, said the traffic signal will control traffic flow and reduce speed on New Tampa Boulevard during peak school hours.
“It will give children who ride a bike or walk to school safe passage across New Tampa Boulevard,” van Rooyen said. “I think that is the best safety feature of all.”
The debate over the wisdom to build the New Tampa Boulevard Bridge also rages on in West Meadows.
Romano, who filed a lawsuit in a failed attempt to nix the bridge project, still isn’t convinced it was a wise investment.
She considers it to be a “small convenience” for West Meadows and Tampa Palms residents who use it as an alternate route to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
“But when I weigh that against the cost of a $13 million project, those are minor things and effect too few people,” Romano said. “I can think of other ways to spend $13 million.”
Van Rooyen, who originally opposed the bridge, now embraces it.
“The bridge has not been a traffic problem at all,” van Rooyen said. “It disperses traffic out. It gives motorists different options to get in and out of the community. It’s also nicely landscaped.”