Tampa launches quick build mobility projects with Cass Street redesign

At the east end of the Cass Street Bridge, a tower crane and the banging of construction workers building a luxury apartment high-rise are part of the development boom that continues to transform downtown Tampa.   

Along the south shoulder of the bridge, a freshly paved band of black pavement soon to be painted green is a less eye-catching sign of the changes in Tampa’s urban core.

The new separated bicycle lane will get downtown residents and workers and students from the nearby University of Tampa and Tampa Preparatory School back and forth across a nearly 100-year-old bridge designed to cater to automobile traffic. 

There are new turn lanes west of the bridge on Cass for the UT and Tampa Prep campuses. The construction covers a quarter-mile stretch of road but city officials say it accomplishes a lot in a short distance.

It carries on Tampa’s Vision Zero effort to find transportation safety solutions to eliminate fatalities and severe injuries on city roadways. Over the last five years, there have been more than 50 crashes on this stretch of Cass, including one death and one severe injury. It fills a gap in the Green Spine, the city’s east-west urban trail and cycle track, making it possible to bike between North Hyde Park and Ybor City in a protected lane.

The Cass Street project also continues a working partnership with urban transportation expert Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York City transportation commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and two nonprofit policy organizations Sadik-Khan leads - Bloomberg Associates and the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Through the pro bono collaboration of Bloomberg Associates and NACTO, Tampa’s Mobility Department is focusing on fast, low-cost transportation projects that improve safety and accessibility for pedestrians, bicycles, e-bikes and scooters. 

“Bloomberg is a pro bono organization and they work with us to find the hidden opportunities to move the needle to improve accessibility to design and creative ideas in order for our (transportation) network to be safer and more connected,” Tampa Infrastructure and Mobility Administrator Jean Duncan says during a January 25th press event at the foot of the Cass Street Bridge. “They bring ideas from all over the U.S. as well as all over the world.”

NACTO, meanwhile, has developed a set of federally-accepted design standards that improve accessibility and safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This group has brought us standards we can work with and hang our hat on to really get away from the old car-centric way of planning,” Duncan says. “Their work has allowed us to point to standards that we can utilize that the Federal Highway Administration recognizes that allow us to build things in our right-of-way that are acceptable.”

Cass Street is the first city project in a “quick build” initiative inspired by the partnership with Bloomberg Associates and NACTO. City workers built it over two weeks in January at a cost of $250,000.

Speaking at the press event at the Cass Street Bridge, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says the partnership has sharpened city administration’s focus on safety improvements and working to “get these projects done without what we would see as the required funding.”

“We don’t have a lot of money to address the majority of our transportation issues but that will not stop us,” Castor says. “We are going to do everything we can to become a successful Vision Zero city.”

At the event, Sadik-Khan says she sees a mayor and the city administration committed to developing a transportation and mobility network that catches up to and keeps pace with the rapid growth of Tampa’s urban core.

“You just look around downtown and it’s exploding,” she says. “You can see the construction right behind us today. But streets like Cass Street have not kept up with the changes. This bridge was built in 1927 and, when you think about it, today it is filled with e-bikes and scooters and regular bikes and the number 10 bus and the number 7 bus. Until now, if you were one of the over 10,000 students at the University of Tampa or at Tampa Prep right here, you were surrounded by a sea of streets that made it almost impossible for you to get across safely.”

For more information, go to Tampa Mobility Department, Bloomberg Associates and National Association of City Transportation Officials.

For prior coverage, go to Bloomberg Associates, transportation expert Janette Sadik-Khan help Tampa craft mobility vision.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.