City prioritizes road safety in East Tampa, but tight budgets create roadblocks

Not unlike other major metro areas across the U.S., crash safety data and road maintenance (pavement wear; potholes) are the two main drivers that determine priority rankings for transportation projects in the Tampa Bay Area. 

When considering the state of transportation in any city, the long and wide-angle view matters because transportation projects are multi-million dollar processes that occur in three phases: planning, design, and construction. 

Phases are often budgeted across one or more fiscal years, and each phase demands higher costs than the last; culminating with top-dollar expenses during the final phase when construction workers build the roads that were planned over years of community engagement and data-digging to identify need and strategizing to design better. 

Three major transportation projects in East Tampa currently respond to urgent needs identified by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Vision Zero: City of Tampa, and Vision Zero Hillsborough

Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and increase equitable mobility adopted by metropolitan agencies across Europe and the U.S. since the 1990s. Hillsborough County Transportation Planning Organization and City of Tampa launched Vision Zero programs in 2016 and 2019, respectively. Grants acquired through Vision Zero are crucial funding arms for local transportation safety and equity projects.

The city's three major East Tampa projects recently completed or currently underway are: Each of these projects was identified due to high crash rates and the roadways' need for repaving.

Local officials underscore the value of grant funding for these roadway safety projects and others -- particularly in lieu of the Florida Supreme Court's February 2021 overruling of the voter approved 2018 "All for Transportation" one-cent surtax in Hillsborough County, which officials say would have quadrupled the annual budget for transportation improvements including public bus service in East Tampa.

Hillsborough County leaders are currently working to introduce an amended penny surtax on the ballot in November 2022.

Related 2020 story: Top solution to begin to close regional inequities? Improve transportation in Tampa Bay

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Read more articles by Jessi Smith.

Jessi Smith (she/they) is a freelance writer who is passionate about sustainability, community building, and the power of the arts and transformative storytelling. A fourth-generation Floridian, Jessi received her B.A. in Art History and English from Florida International University and began reporting for 83 Degrees in 2009. When she isn't writing, Jessi enjoys taking her deaf rescue dog on outdoors adventures, unearthing treasures in backroads antiques and thrift shops, D.I.Y. upcycling projects, and Florida-friendly gardening.