Ashley Drive, other Downtown Tampa streets add murals to calm traffic, save lives

White-striped unused roadway segments in downtown Tampa are being transformed into colorful works of art designed to calm traffic and save lives.

Work on the first of 40 targeted areas started earlier this month along Ashley Drive as a precursor to changes planned for the downtown I-275 interchange as part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Tampa Bay Next initiative, says Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Tampa Bay Next is a $1.4 billion project to modernize and improve interchanges.

The ground murals getting underway are part of Vision Zero, something Mayor Jane Castor and elected officials around the world have adopted to reduce traffic-related fatalities. “Traffic calming and slowing speeds is a great way to do that,” Kress says.

The Tampa Downtown Partnership is keeping with the Vision Zero theme of “Paint Saves Lives” on Ashley Drive, which it considers “Tampa’s grand boulevard, connecting the Riverwalk, Curtis Hixon Park, museums, cultural institutions, and the Tampa Convention Center.”
Local artist Meaghan Farrell Scalise, with Traditional and Digital Art, kicked off the project after studying other art projects already in the downtown area, including the Glazer Children’s Museum, the Stay Curious mural on the Poe Garage, as well as other area art installations. This will help tie them together, Kress says.

“The murals will do double duty and offer more space for pedestrians,” she adds. “It basically gives them more safe space. On the heels of that, we will be putting in flex posts to define the space and some of our big planters, adding some safety elements for more pedestrian space and some traffic calming, which also helps to beautify downtown.”

While the Tampa Downtown Partnership is paying for the work, the City of Tampa has prepared the areas with cleaning and screening. The city created the traffic plans, which do not include artwork on any actual traffic lanes, but alongside them, instead.

The partnership also partnered to install the Black Lives Matter and PRIDE murals already in downtown. Kress calls it “a cool trend to use to impact traffic.”

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Read more articles by Yvette C. Hammett.

Yvette C. Hammett, a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida, has spent much of her career as a professional journalist covering business, the environment, and local features throughout the Tampa Bay Area. She is an avid camper and outdoors person who has also been involved in local events for foster children and the elderly.