New pedestrian safety project could impact traffic flow on 50th Street

By Maria Ranoni, MANAGING EDITOR
On January 6, 2019

ORACLE PHOTO/MARIA RANONI

It may become a bit harder for late students to zoom down 50th Street to make it to class starting today.

The first day of the semester will also mark the beginning of some new construction to the road that borders the entire east side of the USF campus. However, this project will yield three new raised crosswalks.

As long as there are no unexpected delays, like inclement weather, construction will end Wednesday, according to Robert Suess, the division director for Transportation Maintenance at Hillsborough County’s Public Works Department.

Suess said during the three days construction is currently slated to take place, 50th Street will not be completely closed. Instead, portions of the road will be reduced to one lane, allowing some traffic flow.    

There will also be police officers on site to assist with any traffic issues, according to Suess.

The raised crosswalks — similar to those on USF Holly Drive — will be built where the currently existing crosswalks with flashing beacons are.

The flashing beacons were added in 2015 as a part of a larger $5 million project to improve traffic safety in the USF area, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Some other improvements were an added sidewalk along Fletcher bordering campus and reduced speed limits.

“There are other measures that you would do prior to this (raised crosswalks) and have been done, including the signage, the flashing beacons and the high-intensity pavement markings,” Suess said. “So there’s actually a hierarchy and this is the last one because it will have the most impact on vehicles in the roadway.”

There have been a number of reported safety issues for pedestrians on 50th Street, including a woman being hit and seriously injured in 2014 and a guide dog being struck and also injured in 2012.

“It’s (addition of raised crosswalks) a standard industry countermeasure for traffic engineering as a result of traffic studies and it is what is prescribed and endorsed by the federal government to bring attention to pedestrian crossings,” Suess said.

The cost of the new crosswalks is minimal, according to Suess, coming in at less than $15,000.

Suess said that as of now, there are no plans to continue to improve other areas that surround campus, but the county is cognizant of complaints when they come up.

“We’re always evaluating if there’s a condition or something that arises, we would address it, very similar to this,” Suess said. “If there’s a location or something that’s brought to our attention in the future, we would put in countermeasures to try and increase the safety at any location.”

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