Tampa holds information session on proposed downtown roundabout

Crowds flocking to downtown Tampa for this weekend’s Riverfest will enjoy a day filled with food, drink, live music, a hot air balloon glow event and a lantern parade.

They will also have a chance to get details and share feedback on a roundabout project the City of Tampa has planned downtown.

The city’s Mobility Department is holding an informational session on proposed improvements to the intersection of Doyle Carlton Drive and Laurel Street that include converting the existing four-way stop to a one-lane roundabout. 

The May 7 session will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 1100 block of Doyle Carlton Drive, just southwest of the intersection. City staff will be on hand to answer questions and provide information. A preliminary drawing of the intersection redesign will also be on display.

Ken Sides, a senior transportation engineer with the firm Sam Schwartz Engineering, says modern roundabouts like the one the city is planning provide safety benefits by eliminating head-on, T-bone  and high speed crashes. They slow the speed of vehicle traffic, improving safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. 

The Federal Highway Safety Administration has said roundabouts or traffic circles lead to a 90 percent reduction in fatalities, 75 percent fewer injuries, and 10 to 40 percent fewer crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists.  

Sides says they can help the flow of traffic since cars don’t cue up at a stop sign or red light and move pedestrians and cyclists more efficiently.

That may be a significant benefit of the roundabout proposed downtown since it is just east of the Riverwalk and will likely see a significant amount of pedestrians and cyclists.

The pedestrian and cyclist traffic in the area will likely only grow with the future Riverwalk expansion planned for the west side of the Hillsborough River. 
In a media release, Tampa officials say the safety improvements will help advance the city's Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths and severe injuries on its street network.
The plan includes improved crosswalks through the roundabout, buffered bike lanes over the Fortune Taylor Bridge (formerly the Laurel Street Bridge) and improvements to the pavement and stormwater management system within the intersection. 

The city says design and construction are fully funded.
Tampa officials say the roundabout will also offer opportunities to reduce pavement while adding greenspace and create an artistic gateway between downtown and the redeveloping West River District, enhancing the connectivity between the two banks of the Hillsborough River.
Sides says a sculpture of Madame Fortune Taylor, the former slave turned successful businesswoman who once owned the land where the roundabout will go, would be an appropriate piece of public art for the central island of the roundabout. In 2017, city officials honored Taylor’s legacy by again putting her name on the historic bridge over the Hillsborough.

“This is a unique opportunity to honor and celebrate a woman who overcame slavery to become a successful business owner and who owned the land where this roundabout is going,” he says.

For more information go to Doyle Carlton Drive and Laurel Street improvements.

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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.