Westshore sees more pedestrians, bicyclists in its future

Cities across America are making progress toward improving walkability by redesigning streets to slow motorized traffic while adding sidewalks and bike paths connecting places where people live, work and play. 

The City of Tampa — a long-time scion of the automobile — isn’t where it wants to be yet in terms of bicycle and pedestrian safety, but it’s getting there. 

The City completed and opened a key section of the Tampa Riverwalk through downtown in late March.

The Selmon Greenway opened beneath the LeRoy Selmon Expressway in early May.

Construction is ongoing throughout the city on bicycle lanes and paths, sidewalks and street lighting.

Now, the Westshore area, just three miles west of downtown, is designing a path to increased walkability. 

Commuters driving along West Shore Boulevard, Boy Scout Boulevard, Lois Avenue and other major arteries in recent months are seeing two things happening – the construction of residential developments and more foot traffic.

“People want to live where they work,” says Heather Mackin, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at the Westshore Alliance, and that is precisely the goal with the evolving Westshore neighborhood. 

Westshore becomes home for office workers

Once known mainly for its concentration of businesses (12.5 million square feet of office spaces making it the largest commercial submarket in Florida), Westshore is rapidly becoming a vibrant residential community with a growing number of apartments, townhouses and condos as well as single-family homes.

The growth reflects the synergy created by proximity to Tampa International Airport, International Plaza, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Outpatient Facility, Raymond James Stadium, Westshore Mall, and dozens of hotels, restaurants and small shops.  

New Westshore residents are much like city dwellers everywhere in that they want to be able to walk to work, stroll to their favorite restaurants, or hop on a bicycle and cruise around the local neighborhoods. 

“We have a big [residential] project that just finished along Boy Scout Boulevard,” says Westshore Alliance Deputy Director Ann Kulig. 

Her organization, which promotes growth and economic development in an area bound by Himes Avenue to the east, Old Tampa Bay to the west, Kennedy Boulevard to the south, and Hillsborough Avenue to the north, is spearheading walkability efforts. 

“We helped fund Florida Department of Transportation projects that included adding new crosswalks and sidewalks, as well as expanding existing sidewalks, along Boy Scout Boulevard so people can walk to work, walk to lunch, and get around more safely,” Kulig says. 

Connecting the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail 

Among the most visible improvements is the opening of the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail, a recreational path for pedestrians and bicyclists that parallels the Causeway from the Westshore area of Tampa to Clearwater. 

The 10-mile path includes a 45-foot-high span across Old Tampa Bay, the tallest Florida bridge dedicated solely to foot and bicycle traffic. 

Completion of the scenic path prompted Grand Hyatt Tampa General Manager Paul Joseph to roll out rental bikes at the popular Bay area resort. 

“We’ve been renting bikes for about a year now, and already they have proven to be a great amenity for the Hyatt and our guests,” says Joseph. 

The rental bikes, which are available to the hotel’s guests in hourly, half-day and full-day intervals, help visitors see the Bay from a different perspective. Each bicycle is equipped with a storage compartment for bottles of water or other take-alongs. 

“We can even provide you with food for a picnic so you can enjoy the experience even more,” Joseph adds. “It’s such a beautiful ride and is a safe path that takes you along the water and connects with Pinellas County.’’  

More paths planned

The Courtney Campbell Trail marks only the beginning for a new era of pedestrian connectivity in the Westshore vicinity. A utility service road connecting the Courtney Campbell Causeway south toward Cypress Point Park provides cyclists and joggers with a continuous path offering stunning views of Old Tampa Bay. The route also connects trail users with points of interest such as Skyway Park and Ben T. Davis Beach. 

This bayside trail will soon be connected to a series of sidewalks and paths that link Cypress Point Park to the Dale Mabry Highway corridor, according to FDOT spokesperson Kris Carson. 

“A 10-foot-wide path approximately one mile long, coupled with existing and improved sidewalks … will connect people from the West Shore Boulevard underpass of I-275 (adjacent to the WestShore Plaza HART Transfer Center) to Church Avenue, one block west of Dale Mabry Highway and adjacent to the south-side sidewalk of the Walter’s Crossing development [featuring] Target and The Home Depot.” 

The trail is part of the City of Tampa’s Greenways and Trails Master Plan that will eventually provide bicycle and pedestrian connections from the Courtney Campbell Trail to downtown Tampa and other urban destinations. The I-275 portion of the trail, which is slated to open in late 2016 with the completion of the concurrent interstate reconstruction project, is being funded by federal and state money allocated for the interstate’s improvements.  

“The City of Tampa continues to be the FDOT’s most important partner as we work to improve all modes of transportation in the Westshore area,’’ says Carson. 

The [FDOT] also works with the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization [http://www.planhillsborough.org/metropolitan-planning-organization-mpo/], the Westshore Alliance and neighborhood associations throughout the process. 

“As the I-275/State Road 60 project moves forward, efforts will be made to provide additional connectivity in the Westshore area. Additionally, the City’s Cypress Corridor from the U-path (in the Cypress Point Park area) to Westshore Boulevard is currently scheduled to begin construction in late 2015,” Carson says. “When completed, this additional link will allow a continuous route from Pinellas County across the Courtney Campbell Causeway Bridge, to the U-path, to Cypress Street, to West Shore Boulevard, east along Gray Street to Hesperides Street along the I-275 pedestrian path to Dale Mabry.” 
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Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Tampa. He earned his BA in English from the University of South Florida and spent more than three years as a full-time copywriter for a local internet marketing firm before striking out on his own to write for various blogs and periodicals, including TheFunTimesGuide, CoinValue and COINage magazine. He has also authored local history books, including Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood and Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations, which are two titles produced by Arcadia Publishing.