Fletcher Avenue has numerous apartments across the street from campus that house many students. Because the apartments are so close to campus, most students walk from their apartments to class.
However, Fletcher Avenue is missing one very important safety feature for pedestrians – sidewalks.
It is not uncommon to see pedestrians, including students, walking within the small constraints of the bike lane right next to the cars traveling at 45 mph.
According to the Hillsborough County government website, the stretch of Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and 50th Street has the highest pedestrian crash rate in unincorporated Hillsborough County. This is likely due to the 1,400 pedestrians that cross Fletcher Avenue daily but do not have sidewalks to keep them safe.
Hillsborough County is responsible for maintaining Fletcher Avenue, and construction plans have been in the works to make an improvement, which would cost $78 million, to Fletcher Avenue since April 2011.
The plans, which are expected to be completed by next summer, include a six-lane divided highway, five-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the street and four-foot-wide bike lanes on both sides of the street.
The changes will be beneficial for Hillsborough County, particularly for getting pedestrians away from the road.
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), 88 percent of “walking along the roadway” pedestrian crashes could be prevented by providing walkways separated from travel lanes. In a case study done by FHA on Dale Mabry Highway, pedestrian crashes were very common, but after sidewalks were installed, the sidewalks were used frequently and allowed for a safe location for pedestrians.
According to philly.com, a 2011 study found states have ignored pedestrian safety by only allocating 1.5 percent of federal funds to create alternative routes for nonmotorists. If states took pedestrian safety more seriously, Fletcher Avenue probably would have had the funds for sidewalks much sooner.
While USF is not responsible for maintaining the roads surrounding campus, the university should get involved and advocate for improvements because Fletcher Avenue is posing a safety hazard for USF students. Countywide budget restraints may be limiting now for providing funding for sidewalks, but it wouldn’t hurt for USF to drum up support from the local community and alumni.