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Slow down! City of Tampa plans safer bike lanes, traffic calming on Bayshore Boulevard

A more pedestrian-friendly and bikeable Bayshore Boulevard could be on the horizon, as the City of Tampa outlines plans for road design and traffic flow improvements along the south Tampa bayside thoroughfare. 

Although the 4.5 mile waterfront boulevard is known as a destination for recreation and exercise, many people who live along Bayshore Boulevard in South Tampa cite unsafe motorist speeds as a deterrent to enjoying the space as pedestrians and bicyclists. 

"There was a thread of complaints that motorist speeds are not being enforced--and a lot of residents are really frustrated by that," says Christine Acosta, Executive Director of the citizen's advocacy group, Walk Bike Tampa. 

The City aims to address residents' concerns with a traffic calming plan, which includes a road diet that decreases the width of traffic lanes to 10 feet and allows for the addition of a two-foot buffer to existing bike lanes, as well as the installation of Rapid Reflective Flashing Beacon (RRFB) crosswalks at three Bayshore Boulevard locations and a reduction of the posted speed limit. 

"It's fantastic that the city has a need for maintenance that goes about incorporating walk and bike improvements. The primary objective is to reduce the speed on Bayshore so that it is more user-friendly for all the users--and therefore plays to the city's goal of becoming a more multimodal place to live, work and play," says Acosta. The City of Tampa Transportation and Stormwater Services Department held the latest public information session at the Kate Jackson Community Center on February 23, allowing citizens to view and comment on plans for traffic calming and pedestrian safety projects along Bayshore Boulevard.

The proposal for improvements is summarized as follows: 
  • Removal of faded striping along Rome Avenue and Platt Street, and the installation of new striping with black contrast to provide better lane visibility for motorists and cyclists,
  • Provision of buffered bike lanes from Rome Avenue to south of Howard Avenue,
  • Addition of a two-foot buffer to existing bike lanes,
  • Installation of RRFB devices at South Dakota Avenue, South Delaware Avenue, and midway between South Brevard Avenue and W. Swann Ave.; and,
  • Reduction of posted speed limit from 40 to 35 miles per hour. 

"All those elements together, it is hoped, will result in lower speeds--so that it will feel appropriate to drive slower," says Acosta. 

The Bayshore Boulevard traffic calming project, currently in the design phase, is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The design process is expected to continue through May, with construction dates to be determined. 

Acosta says that Walk Bike Tampa embraces the proposed improvements along Bayshore. 

"This is a positive step in the right direction for which we are very grateful," says Acosta. "We look forward to more safety measures, like protected space for cyclists, throughout Tampa Bay."

Pop-up project focuses on North Marina street improvements in Clearwater

Just north of Clearwater’s downtown, the North Marina area has long boasted its own distinct identity separate from the nearby urban hub, says Lawrence Young, Jr., the city’s neighborhoods coordinator.

Clearwater Bay borders the area to the west, while the Pinellas Trail runs along its eastern edge. Cedar and Eldridge Streets serve as North Marina’s northern and southern anchors, respectively. The neighborhood also includes several city landmarks: the Seminole Boat Launch, the Francis Wilson Playhouse and North Ward Elementary School.

The North Marina area has so much potential that the city has eyed the neighborhood for improvements over the past several years. At the end of 2015, it finalized and approved a North Marina Master Plan, which covers about 64 acres, to rejuvenate the area.

So last summer, when the city’s Planning and Development Department launched a separate program, a new pop-up event series, targeting neighborhoods in need of streetscape upgrades, North Marina was an obvious first choice. “We’re able to test recommendations from that [master] plan,” Young says. 

Through temporary installations and enhancements made to existing streets within the North Marina neighborhood, Pop-up North Marina: A Community Streets Experiment offers city staff a way to study how to improve the overall experience for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers in the area before making permanent changes.

Implemented with the help of community residents, impermanent roadway enhancements made to North Marina streets include painted pavement and sidewalk art, sidewalk extensions, on-street parking, improved landscaping, and community benches. For instance, Young says, they temporarily reduced lanes on Ft. Harrison Avenue and dedicated the extra space to pedestrians.
Volunteers extended the sidewalk on that roadway and installed planters designed by children at the North Greenwood Recreation Center.

“The area already has an identity,” Young says. “They need something to activate and bring it all together to attract more businesses and residents to the area. This project could really bring it to life.”

Though the community gathered to celebrate the temporary changes at a Jan. 28 festival, the installation will remain in place for two months. This will give residents and city officials alike the chance to test them out. Some of these temporary enhancements could become permanent in the future, says Young.

This “unique” event is the first of its kind in Clearwater, he adds, and hopefully won’t be the last, given the success of the pop-up event so far. Though the city hasn’t named the next neighborhood to receive similar treatment, they’ll base their decision on comments received from residents throughout the city. Young encourages residents to reach out to him via email.

In the meantime, Young is excited about the possibilities in North Marina. The timing of the pop-up event is perfect, he adds, since the city held its first meeting to discuss the implementation of Phase One of the North Marina Master Plan Jan. 25. “We’re excited about everything and seeing it come to life,” Young says. “We can’t wait to activate this space.”

Coast Bike Share rolls out 20 new hubs with 200 rentable bicycles in downtown St. Pete

Hopping on two wheels for bike ride through the 'burg just became easier than ever: Coast Bike Share celebrated its official launch in St. Pete on Feb. 4 with a community ride, led by Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, through the downtown streets and along the waterfront. 

Approximately 100 riders participated in the launch, including members of Shift St. Pete, the St. Pete Bike Co-op, and Hillsborough and Pinellas bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees. The launch party culminated in a "ride-through" style ribbon-cutting at the fourth annual Localtopia celebration.

"The city is so ready for it," says Eric Trull, Regional Director of Coast Bike Share and St. Petersburg resident.

"With the culture here -- between the arts community, the food, and the breweries -- the demographic here is all about the bikes. The biggest question we received during the launch was not 'What is the bike share?' but 'Why did it take so long to get one here?'" says Trull. 

The official Coast Bike Share launch brings a total of 20 new bike share stations with 200 new bicycles to downtown St. Pete this month. Coast Bike Share introduced a demo bike share system to St. Pete in November to coincide with the Cross-Bay Ferry launch -- celebrating a growing culture of diverse multimodal transportation options in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The November demo-release rolled out 100 bikes at 10 bicycle hubs around downtown St. Pete, offering a variety of bike rental rates: pay-as-you-go for $8 per hour, $15 for a monthly membership that includes 60 minutes of daily ride time, or $79 for an annual membership ($59 for students) with 60 minute of daily ride time. For a limited time, St. Pete residents can also sign up for the 'Founding Plan' -- a $99 annual membership that offers 90 minutes of daily ride time. Riders can reserve a bike on location by signing up online and using the bike hub keypad to enter their own unique pin code, or by using the Social Bicycles smartphone app.

The St. Pete bike fleet is the second Coast Bike Share program in the region. It joins the Tampa fleet, which launched in 2014 with 300 rentable bicycles at 30 hubs throughout downtown, the Channel District, Hyde Park, Davis Island, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the Tampa Riverwalk and Ybor City.

Trull says that Coast Bike Share aims to improve access to downtown St. Pete and its surrounding districts by strategically placing bike share hubs throughout the region. Coast Bike Share St. Pete hubs are located in the Grand Central District, Old Northeast and the waterfront, the Edge District, the Innovation District, and the emerging Deuces Live District.

"We're trying to make sure we hit as many neighborhoods as we can to connect everybody to downtown," Trull says.

Coast Bike Share cycles are relatively lightweight three-speed cruisers -- weighing in at just under 40 lbs, and come equipped with a basket and a GPS-enabled lock that enables riders to rent-and-ride -- and conveniently drop bikes off at the nearest available bike share station. The bikes also calculate the distance traveled and calories burned by riders.

Trull says Coast Bike Share system was proud to reach its cumulative 300,000 mile mark during the St. Pete pilot -- with 4% of the program's total mileage clocked in St. Pete during the pilot period alone. 

In its first 90 days, Coast Bike Share reports that St. Pete pedalers biked over 12,000 miles in 4,400 trips -- meaning that those who chose to ride rather than drive burned a combined 480,000 calories and contributed to a 10,560 lb reduction in carbon waste. 

Learn more about cruising around Tampa and St. Petersburg on two wheels by visiting the Coast Bikes website

Join Hillsborough MPO in Vision Zero Community Workshop on January 31

Tampa Bay area bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates will hit the streets for a field review of Hillsborough Avenue during the second of four Vision Zero Workshops, taking place on Jan. 31 from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. at the Town 'N Country Regional Library, 7606 Paula Drive.

Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to join the MPO, Hillsborough County Sheriff's office staff, and students and seniors from the neighboring middle school and senior center on a walking audit of Hillsborough Avenue and Hanley Road, where they will observe traveler behavior and road design to determine whether pedestrian access and safety are taken into account at nearby destinations, and what improvements might be made.  

Following the field review, the Vision Zero committee will break into four Action Track teams to begin developing each group's action plans for 2017. The Vision Zero Action tracks are as follows: 
  • Paint Saves Lives: low-cost, high-impact engineering strategies for safer streets
  • One Message, Many Voices: public education and awareness strategies
  • Consistent and Fair: community-oriented law enforcement
  • The Future Will Not Be Like the Past: context-sensitive design for walkable communities
Currently, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region ranks seventh in the nation for pedestrian fatalities, with 821 pedestrians killed over a 10-year period through 2014, according to the biennial Dangerous by Design report released by Smart Growth America on Jan. 10. Though still listed in the top ten most dangerous places, the Tampa region did make a shift away from its 2nd place position, which was reflected in the previous report in 2014. 

By the end of 2017, the Vision Zero Action Plan aims to outline steps that will move Hillsborough County to its goal of zero traffic deaths. 

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend all Vision Zero workshops, and to join Vision Zero Action Tracks to brainstorm solutions for safer streets. 

Can't make it to the Jan. 31 workshop? Get involved any time by adding your voice to the Vision Zero Interactive Map of Hillsborough County and sharing site-specific traffic concerns with the MPO. Scroll down the Vision Zero Action Plan page to find the map, select "Pinpoint Safety Concerns" and click "Points" to place your comments and safety concerns on the map. 

Want to learn more about the Hillsborough MPO's revolutionary Vision Zero initiative and to get connected for future upcoming workshops and events? Follow the new Vision Zero Hillsborough Facebook page.

Florida DOT, Tampa celebrate new streetscape through Ybor City

Twenty-four years ago on Dec. 9, Richard Gonzmart was mourning the loss of his father. This year, though, that memory was likely softened with a happier one.

State and city officials came together in Ybor City that day to celebrate the completion of the 21st and 22nd Streets Urban Corridor Modification Project, as well as the banning of truck traffic on both streets.
 
"This is a dream that my father had back in the 80s," said Gonzmart, President of the Columbia Restaurant Group, at the celebration. "He envisioned the day there would be no trucks, and this would be the gateway, the entrance, to this historic, beautiful area."
 
When Interstate-4 was built in the early 1960s, 21st and 22nd streets became the main routes to the Port of Tampa. As the port grew, truck traffic in Ybor City increased. So, the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Tampa collaborated to find solutions to the problem.
 
The first step was to build the Interstate-4/Lee Roy Selmon Expressway Connector to provide a safer, more-efficient route for truck traffic between the Port of Tampa and I-4. The $426 million connector has exclusive truck lanes for direct access to the port. 
 
The second part, which took nearly two years to complete and was celebrated Dec. 9, was the reconstruction of 21st and 22nd streets. It provides pedestrian and bike connectivity on 21st and 22nd streets between Adamo Drive and Hillsborough Avenue. Other major features include wider and scored sidewalks, on-street parking, granite curbs, brick crosswalks, outdoor street furniture, landscaping, iconic five-globe lampposts, a new water main, and repairs to the stormwater and sewer system. The city paid $2.5 million toward the total cost of $9.5 million.
 
During the Dec. 9 ceremony, an official sign honoring the partnership between FDOT and the City of Tampa, and announcing "no through truck traffic," was unveiled.
 
"With the completion of this project, trucks are now restricted from traveling through this section, which will allow this area to grow again," Paul Steinman, secretary of FDOT's District 7, said during the ceremony. "This project is an outstanding example of when the federal government, state and local governments work together with our community to find a balance between the growth of the state of Florida and our economy, and how we make our communities a better place to work, live and play."
 
Gonzmart said the day was a milestone because it represented a rebirth of Ybor City, and the beginning of the realization of his father's vision.
 
"You're going to see expansion to the east, to the south, to the north, creating job opportunities; for those that live and those that visit here, a place to call home once again like it was back in the early 1900s," he said during the celebration. "Our family has been so excited that we have five projects that will be announced over the next three months, all within 200 yards of what is the Columbia Restaurant because we know, we realize, the commitment the state of Florida, the City of Tampa have made, is going to make Ybor City and make Tampa a better place because of it."

St. Pete-Clearwater airport continues renovations, on track to serve record number of travelers

Construction at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is moving along as planned, and the growing airport is on target to serve the most passengers in its history -- 1.8 million.
 
The airport has been modernizing its terminal since 2008. According to Michele Routh, the airport's PR Director, the first and second phases of the project included adding a chiller plant for the HVAC system; updating plumbing systems; adding two passenger loading bridges; renovating Gates 2-6 hold rooms for expanded seating, square footage, restrooms and restaurant areas; and addressing other infrastructure issues.
 
Most of the airport's passengers -- about 95 percent -- are served by Allegiant Air, which was moved from Ticketing B to Ticketing A because an inline baggage system was added there during the second phase of the project.
 
"It processes bags quicker," Routh says of the inline system.
 
The third phase of the project began in April and includes adding an inline baggage system to Ticketing B. In September, the airport received a $753,979 grant from the Transportation Security Administration for the design of the new system. An additional grant for $300,000 had already been awarded from the Florida Department of Transportation Aviation Funding. The total design cost is $1,070,302.
 
"Once we get this designed and get it built, then Allegiant will get back to Ticketing B where there's more counter space, and they'll have the inline system." Routh says.
 
The third phase of the project also includes a major focus on Gates 7-10, as well as adding checkpoints, restrooms, restaurant space and a play area for kids designed by Great Explorations Children's Museum.
 
"We're adding 12,000 square feet to the Gates 7-10 area," Routh says, which includes an additional 450 seats.
 
The airport has also added a third checkpoint for Gates 2-6, and will add a third checkpoint for Gates 7-10 by the time the third phase of the project is completed, which is estimated to be in summer 2017.
 
Additionally, the airport opened a cell phone parking lot over the summer, will update its master plan next summer, and plans to build a parking garage in the future.
 
All of the projects are meant to accommodate the airport's travelers, who have more than tripled in the past 10 years.
 
"The growth we've had in the last decade since Allegiant and Sunwing joined us has been a 322 percent increase," Routh says.
 
She says the airport is proud of its customer service and its commitment to heavily compete for grants to fund its projects. The airport has no debt service and has spent $76 million over the last 10 years. It plans to spend $142 million in renovation projects in the next 10 years.
 
"We're very excited about all the developments," Routh says. "As we go through them, our challenge is making it as easy on our passengers as we possibly can."

Port Tampa Bay busy with cold storage facility construction, new berth, gantry cranes

There's a lot going on at Port Tampa Bay.
 
In October, the Port announced that Port Logistics Refrigerated Services had begun site work for construction of a new 134,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse. The facility will handle refrigerated import and export cargoes, and it's scheduled to open in the summer of 2017.
 
Port Logistics will operate the facility, which will be able to accommodate both chilled and frozen products. It's being built on a 13.7-acre site at the Port, which serves a growing consumer market and distribution center hub along the I-4 Corridor across Central Florida.
 
"It’s important because it’s bringing economic development to the Tampa Bay area, as well as bringing a unique cargo opportunity and building a very impressive, state-of-the-art cold storage facility," says Andy Fobes, Port Tampa Bay spokesman. 
 
In addition to the cold storage facility and the infrastructure surrounding it, Port Tampa Bay is planning to open a new multi-use berth at East Port on Dec. 8. The East Port berth will be able to accommodate a variety of cargoes, Fobes says.
 
Also on Dec. 8, the Port plans to unveil its updated master plan called Vision 2030. The plan will serve as a road map to building the port toward 2030 and beyond, Fobes says.
 
In July, the Port commissioned two gantry cranes that weigh 1,600 tons each and can lift 65 tons. They're used for loading and unloading cargo containers from container ships.
 
"The two new post-Panamax gantry cranes have elevated our stature as a container port, and we are able to accommodate for ships twice as large as ever before," Fobes says.
 
The increased accommodation has allowed the Port to expand and diversify its cargo business by serving wider ships that travel through the expanded Panama Canal.
 
"Our improved facilities and continued capital program ensure that our Port will continue to serve the region well in all our diverse lines of business," Fobes says.

Could parklets be coming to Tampa in 2017?

If you happened to be in the Channel District earlier this month, you might have seen something unusual on the street that could soon become more popular.
 
Seven parklets, or extensions of the sidewalk built on street parking spaces, were displayed on 12th Street for four hours on Nov. 5 during a pop-up festival for the annual Tampa Bay Design Week.
 
"We had a really great turnout," says Rachel Radawec, executive administrative assistant with the Tampa Downtown Partnership and parklet enthusiast. "People came down, they loved it, they sat down and talked and ate and everything you're supposed to do in a parklet."
 
Parklets are a trend gaining popularity across the country. San Francisco, Seattle and Charlotte, NC, are a few cities that have them.
 
During the third year of Tampa Bay Design Week, an event meant to expose the public to the design world, "we decided it was time for Tampa to have one," Radawec explains.
 
Parklets aren't art installations. They provide space for people to sit, relax and enjoy the city on streets that would otherwise be used simply for traffic, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. They often combine seating, trees, flowers or shrubs, but they don't necessarily have to be green spaces.
 
"You essentially take an on-street parking spot and take it away from the car and give it back to the people," Radawec says.
 
As a Tampa resident, Radawec says she's a fan of anything that enhances the downtown area, which she considers her backyard.
 
"I'm really just interested in anything that makes Tampa an interesting place," she says.
 
So, she helped facilitate the Nov. 5 showcase, and she's helping to facilitate discussions about the future of parklets in Tampa.
 
Gensler, a Tampa design firm who created one of the seven parklets during the showcase, was so taken with concept that they set up their parklet for an extra week in front of Regions Bank at 100 N. Tampa St.
 
Now, they're one of the entities talking with Radawec about launching a parklet program in Tampa next year. TECO has provided $12,000 to cover the cost of two commercial-grade steel bases that parklets sit on. But details, including who will host the program, where the parklets will be located and for how long, and what they'll look like, are still up in the air.
 
"My hope right now is to launch a program next fall," Radawec says, adding that October is the time when the weather cools and people want to sit outside.
 
Radawec invites anyone interested in knowing more about parklets or joining the effort to email her by following this link.
 
"We're really excited about it," she says.

More trails for walking, bicycling coming to Pinellas County thanks to state SUN Trail program

The Florida Department of Transportation has awarded $44,345,430 to 45 projects across the state, and Pinellas County received $7,062,488 of that total.
 
The majority of the money earmarked for Pinellas, $5.7 million, will go toward the second phase of the Pinellas Trail Loop from John Chestnut Park to Enterprise Road in Palm Harbor. The rest, almost $1.4 million, will go toward the Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail from the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Bayshore Boulevard.
 
The money comes from the state's Shared Use Nonmotorized or SUN Trail program, which was established in 2015 and is meant to help Floridians enjoy safe, recreational opportunities. The SUN Trail network consists of the developing statewide system of paved, multi-use trails for bicyclists and pedestrians, physically separated from vehicular traffic.
 
The projects span 21 counties throughout Florida and include the construction of 11 separate trail segments, which will add or improve approximately 20 miles of trail to Florida’s trail system. Another 34 projects will be in various pre-construction phases of work, such as feasibility study, environmental review and design.
 
Pinellas was the only county in the Tampa Bay area to receive funding.

"Combining multiple trail projects into an integrated statewide system requires coordination and a concerted effort," says Robin Birdsong, SUN Trail program manager. "The two projects in Pinellas County highlight how funding provided through the SUN Trail Program can help agencies leverage local funds, close trail gaps, and improve safety while enhancing multimodal transportation options."
 
The two Pinellas projects are part of five total projects that will help advance the Coast to Coast Connecter a 250-mile trail system linking the Gulf and Atlantic coasts through Central Florida.
 
Seventeen other projects are part of the St. Johns River Sea Loop, a 270-mile trail system that will link several communities, including St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Titusville, DeLand and Palatka.
 
The other 23 projects are for individual trail segments throughout the rest of the state.

How you can help decrease traffic fatalities in Hillsborough County through Vision Zero?

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is working to make the county's roads safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, and it wants you to help.
 
On Oct. 25, the MPO will host a workshop, 9-11 a.m., at Ragan Park Community Center, 1200 E. Lake Ave. in Tampa, to get input for a community action plan called Vision Zero.
 
The initiative started in Sweden as a road traffic safety project in 1997. Since then, it's been picked up by many cities around the world, including the United States, according to Gena Torres, executive planner for Hillsborough's MPO.
 
"The whole premise of it is even one traffic fatality is too many," Torres says.
 
Hillsborough County has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in Florida. As of Oct. 12, there have been 142 traffic crashes with fatalities this year, including 27 pedestrian fatalities and 10 bicyclist fatalities, according to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
 
The Hillsborough MPO had a Vision Zero kickoff in June with community and business leaders, as well as bicycle and pedestrian activists, and got an idea of the direction it should take with the initiative, Torres explains. The result is a total of four workshops, with the first in October. Future workshops will take place in January, April and July.
 
At each event, attendees will brainstorm steps the county can take to reduce traffic fatalities. Topics include: how to get or keep limited resources focused on key locations with safety issues; how to reach target audiences; how to insist on good behavior in the rights of way; and how to avoid re-creating the problems that the county currently experiences as new areas are built or roads are reconstructed.
 
The ideas will become part of the action plan.
 
"The goal of the action plan is to be a 1- or 2-year implementable thing," Torres says.
 
To register for the first workshop, call Torres at 813-273-3774, extension 357, or email her here.
 
"People who really are passionate: Come on," Torres says. "We want to have everybody."

Test ferry service between Tampa, St. Pete to launch in November

Four local governments have come together to test the Cross-Bay Ferry, a six-month pilot project that will transport riders between Tampa and St. Petersburg beginning in November.
 
A 55-foot catamaran will ferry up to 149 passengers at a time between the Tampa Convention Center and the yacht basin along Bay Shore Drive NE in St. Pete. The voyage takes roughly 50 minutes. The boat can cruise at 33 mph, but the actual operating speed will vary.
 
"The Cross-Bay Ferry is a fantastic example of regional collaboration to take on an important challenge -- transportation -- in a way that's exciting to experience and pays homage to our maritime history," says St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman in a prepared statement. "Importantly, this is a test project, and we need the community to support this if we want it to continue and expand."
 
The City of St. Petersburg, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and Pinellas County collaborated to support the project. Organizers have created a service plan that is subject to change. It begins with online ticket sales on Oct. 15.
 
Friday-Sunday service begins on Nov. 4 for day-tripping locals, sports fans and tourists.
 
From Nov. 3-18, community and business organizations can experience the ferry Mondays-Fridays through a series of "Test the Waters" excursions.
 
The general public can ride the ferry for free from Nov. 21-23 right before Thanksgiving.
 
Beginning the week of Nov. 28, regular service will start with Monday-Thursday commuter service and mid-day service for recreational and tourist trips.
 
The ferry will have two round trips Mondays-Fridays and Sundays. There will be three round trips on Saturdays.
 
The regular fare for a one-way trip will be $10 for adults, $8 for kids 3-12, and free for kids younger than 3.

The test project will end on April 30, 2017.
 
"The opening of ferry service between Tampa and St. Petersburg is a major addition to our offerings as a tourism destination," says Santiago Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, in a prepared statement. "We know that visitors pay no attention to municipal boundaries, so providing them with an exciting alternative to driving between Tampa and St. Petersburg will make their visit all the more memorable."

Free shuttle service coming to downtown Tampa this fall

A complimentary shuttle service will soon be operating in downtown Tampa.
 
The Tampa Downtown Partnership has chosen The Tampa Downtowner Group to run the service. Downtowner is based in Florida and offers service in South Florida; Newport Beach, CA.; and Aspen, CO. TDP's agreement with Downtowner comes after two years of research, planning, fundraising and selecting. The service is expected to launch in early fall.
 
Riders will use the Downtowner App to request shuttle service in a designated area, which includes the downtown Tampa business district, the University of Tampa, the Channel District, the River Arts District, and the non-gated north end of Harbour Island. The service will be available Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-11 p.m.; and Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
 
An estimated 10 electric vehicles will carry up to five passengers each, although TDP and Downtowner are still determining how many vehicles will operate at any given time and expect to have more in service as demand increases.
 
"A successful urban environment requires an abundance of transportation choices," says Greg Minder, TDP board chair. "Our forthcoming Downtowner service adds to those choices and helps support downtown's growing needs. The appeal of workers, residents, and visitors parking once and using the service to get around throughout the day will increase the value of the live, work, play experience downtown offers.”
 
Residents can use the service instead of driving their cars, TDP says. Workers can park remotely and take a shuttle to their offices or favorite lunch destinations. Visitors can park once and travel around downtown all day.

TDP estimates that Downtowner will serve 8,100 residents, 58,000 workers, and a countless number of visitors.
 
The service will also bring 20 new jobs to Tampa. Drivers are being hired now and those interested can apply on the Downtowner website.

Port Tampa Bay begins using massive new cranes

If you're traveling near Port Tampa Bay, you might see two newly commissioned gantry cranes in action.
 
The cranes, which weigh 1,600 tons each, were officially brought into service on Friday, July 22. They're used for loading and unloading cargo containers from container ships, and they'll allow the Port to expand and diversify its cargo business by serving wider ships that travel through the expanded Panama Canal.
 
The new cranes can lift 65 tons. That's 25 more tons than the three 42-year-old gantry cranes that were previously used at the port. They stand 300 feet high and have a 174-foot outreach, allowing the Port to handle ships nearly twice the size of ships it could handle before.
 
The cranes were manufactured in China, arrived at the port in April, and then went through testing and certification.
 
"It's great to unveil these beautiful new cranes to our customers and the community, following a seamless and exciting period of getting them ready for container operations," says Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson in a July 22 news release.
 
The Port's vision is to be the container gateway of west and central Florida, according to the release. The idea is to serve the growing Interstate-4 Corridor between Tampa and Orlando, and the Port has been marketing its increased capability to global shipping companies.
 
Port Tampa Bay, the state of Florida and terminal operator Ports America invested $24 million into the new equipment, including $11 million for each of the cranes, and another $2 million in infrastructure improvements and spare parts. Ports America will operate the cranes.
 
"It's truly a milestone for the port as we realize this tremendous capital investment and begin to see the generational benefits for the economy," Anderson says.

4 Clearwater Beach bridges are being replaced

Four bridges in the Island Estates community of Clearwater are being replaced.

It started when someone kayaking under one of the bridges noticed degrading concrete and reported it to the city of Clearwater.

“We hired a consultant to do a study and when we got the reports back we found out the bridges needed to be replaced,” says Roger Johnson, Project Manager for the city of Clearwater.

Johnson explains the process is quite complex, involving demolition of the bridges, which is not easy when these roadways are the only access point to the fingers of the Island Estates community. In order to replace them, the city has to demolish one side at a time, while using the other side as two-way traffic for people to get back and forth. Once one side is completed, construction can begin on the other side.

Minor repairs are being made to an additional five bridges in the community. The total cost of the project is $3.6 million.
So how are other bridges in Clearwater fairing?

“The FDOT inspects our bridges regularly and provides reports on their findings,” Johnson says. “For now we don’t see anything substantial in the foreseeable future, of course if something shows up then we will obviously address the issue.”

As for the construction on the Island Estate bridges, progress is moving forward and construction is expected to be completed April 2017.

For the most up-to-date information on road closures, and construction updates on the project visit the city’s engineering website.

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport undergoes $9.8M renovation

Airports in the Tampa Bay area are getting bigger and better, including St. Pete-Clearwater International, which just announced its renovation plans for its terminals. This follows the recent announcement made by Tampa International Airport of the opening of the first few new restaurants and retail as part of a $953 million renovation master plan.

At St. Pete-Clearwater International in North St. Petersburg close to Largo and Clearwater, a $9.8 million project will add 12,000-square-feet to gates seven through 10 as well as an additional 350 new seats to the waiting area by those gates.

“The terminal renovation project is needed to meet our passenger growth,” says Michele Routh of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE).

The passenger screening checkpoint area will go from two lanes to three in an effort to expedite wait times. Other improvements taking place in gates seven through 10 include renovations to retail and food and beverage concessions, a new children’s play area and renovated restrooms.

“The airport will be fully functioning during the renovations,” Routh says.

Restrooms will be renovated and expanded in baggage claim, the restaurant on the second floor and in the operations wing. All of these renovations will include upgrades to meet ADA requirements. A new mechanical control room will be added as well.   

“For over three years we have been growing by double digits,” St. Pete-Clearwater Airport Director Tom Jewsbury stated in a news release. “Although the construction phase will present challenges, the end result will be worth it for our passengers' comfort and convenience.”

Construction is expected to start next month. The Artec Group will be handling all of the renovations, and the project is expected to be completed in summer 2017.
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