Tampa proposes improvements for city street designs. <span class='image-credits'>City of Tampa</span>

Tampa plans Complete Street design for part of Columbus Drive

Tampa is planning a complete street project on a stretch of East Columbus Drive as part of the city’s effort to make urban roadways more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

For the 0.4 mile stretch between North Nebraska Avenue and North 14th Street, the concept on the table right now reduces the travel lanes to 10.5 feet wide to accommodate bicycle lanes on both sides of the road and on-street parking along the south side. A striped buffer zone would separate that parking aisle from the bicycle lane on that side of the road. Three crosswalks with button-activated flashing beacons would help pedestrians safely cross the street.

Transportation and Stormwater Services Director Jean Duncan says the project will reconfigure a roadway originally designed exclusively for cars to accommodate multiple modes of transportation.

“There’s a lot of interest in people bicycling for commuter purposes,” Duncan says. “The other benefit we get when we redesign roads for bicycles is that roads were originally designed for cars, specifically cars going fast. We don’t want that anymore in our more urban environment. We want to slow cars down. When we put bicycle infrastructure on our roads, it allows us to narrow the travel lanes and draw more attention of the drivers to other users of the roadway. That puts a calming effect on the road where cars are more likely to drive the posted speed limit and be more aware of other users on the road.”

As part of Tampa’s vision to create a “livable city,” a Walk-Bike Plan compiled in 2011 with the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization identified projects that could establish an urban bicycle path grid network as a transportation alternative to single-occupant vehicles. East Columbus Drive was the No. 4 priority in the first phase of that plan.

“This is just continuing to build up that infrastructure and create a grid network throughout the city for bicycle connectivity,” Duncan says.

The project will also include some innovative environmental features. Duncan says the Transportation & Stormwater Services and Parks and Recreation departments are working together to plant new trees and have stormwater runoff irrigate those trees, with the excess flowing into the city’s stormwater system.

“It’s a green infrastructure application we are using for the street trees,” Duncan says. “We’re trying to be more creative with the environmental aspects of our projects and more sustainable. We look forward to doing more of these sorts of things in the future.”

Right now, Tampa is getting public feedback on its planned concept for East Columbus. After that, the project will go through design. Construction is expected to start in the summer of 2020 and last approximately seven months. The projected cost for design, construction, inspection, and contingency is approximately $865,489, with the city and Florida Department of Transportation funding the project.

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather and the wealth of outdoor festivals.
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