Campus road improvements continue

The roads around USF have been a concern for a long time.

Dangerous crosswalks, tight intersections and potholes have subjected motorists to substantial hazards around a campus that accepts thousands of cars a day.

In May, road problems caught the attention of student body president Mike Griffin. Griffin contacted Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman with his concerns, and asked for changes to be made.

With safety and aesthetics in mind, work based on some of Griffin’s proposals, as well as other improvements in and around campus, have been or are scheduled to be completed by the start of the fall semester.

In a small victory for Griffin, the crosswalk on Fletcher Avenue, which connects Fontana Hall to Palm Avenue, was repainted in June. Griffin told Norman the intersection was unsafe for the heavy pedestrian traffic. Students and others walking across the street must contend with fast-moving traffic and two traffic lights placed less than 100 yards apart.

The repainting, however, fell short of Griffin’s original goal for the intersection. Griffin said he had envisioned the construction of a raised crosswalk, similar to those near the Sun Dome, or a crosswalk built underground.

In addition, after his meeting with Norman, Griffin also talked of a lighted sign to warn drivers of the dangerous intersections. Those signs have yet to be installed.

Though his more elaborate plans failed to materialize, Griffin said he’s pleased with the work that’s been done.

“It looks good, definitely much better than what was there,” he said.

Michael McCarthy, of the Hillsborough County Traffic Division, said the work at the Fontana Hall/Palm Avenue crosswalk cost $200-$300.

McCarthy said a traffic-calming program to begin in October might allow for the creation of a raised crosswalk at the site. Otherwise, he said, the raised crosswalk idea simply doesn’t fit into his department’s operational budget.

Griffin said he would still continue to push for the additional lighting and signage in the area.

Another area of concern for Griffin is the intersection of Fletcher Avenue and 50th Street, which has long been known for its uneven pavement and numerous potholes. The Fletcher/50th intersection hosts heavy traffic as students utilize the east entrances to campus. 50th Street lacks a true right turning lane at the intersection, and traffic backs up several hundred yards during peak driving times.

McCarthy said the proposed construction of north and south turning lanes at Fletcher and 50th Street would have to wait. He said no work would be done until funds become available.

As for traffic concerns on campus, construction has long been the order of the day outside the H. Lee Moffitt Center. In response to additions to the center, four traffic signals and a raised crosswalk, which doubles as a speed bump, have been added in a two-month long project.

According to Mark Miller, the Moffitt project manager, the total cost is just under $500,000. Construction should be completed on or near the first day of classes.

“(This project) is for public safety and to control speed on Magnolia,” Miller said.

In addition to roads on or near USF, students are continually faced with driving concerns on area interstates. Work continued this summer on Interstate 275, from Busch Blvd. to south of Fletcher Avenue. According to John McShaffrey, spokesman for the Tampa construction office of the Department of Transportation, the work has been underway for three years at a cost of $39 million.

McShaffrey said students can expect the work to be completed by late summer or early fall, depending on the weather and other factors. But, work on the aging interstate is far from over. McShaffrey said following the completion of the current construction, work will begin to rebuild the Interstate 4/I-275 interchange.

Parking and Transportation Services

For students, faculty and visitors to campus who are unlucky enough to be slapped with a parking ticket, the resulting fine will lighten the wallet a bit more than in past years.

For 2002-2003, fines for parking in a disabled space or ramp or parking in reserved spaces will cost an extra $25. Parking in service drives and parking on grass will cost an additional $10. Not having a current USF decal or permit will cost $30, which is an extra $10. Fines for parking in a state vehicle space, violating a barricade, parking out of assigned area, blocking traffic and parking in a no-parking zone will all cost violators an additional $10.

Removing or damaging an immobilization device or possessing an unauthorized or fraudulent decal or permit will both cost an extra $25, as will blocking a service ramp and having false registration.

Double parking, meter violations, parking over lines, parking facing traffic, timed space violations and improper display of decals or permits will all cost an extra $5.

The collective wallets on campus will hurt again this fall with an increased parking decal fee.

In May, Griffin made news also for his public disagreement with Parking and Transportation services director Greg Sylvester and fellow Board of Trustees members over a plan to increase fees for parking decals.

Griffin vocalized his concerns at a BOT meeting, but cast the only dissenting vote. The proposal passed, leading to the following increases.

For the 2002-2003 term, the cost of a reserved annual permit will jump by $100, gold annual by $50, staff annual by $25, Moffitt annual by $23 and student annual by $5. Staff semester permits will cost an extra $13 and student semester, an additional $3.

These increases come on the heels of a decision to impose a $2-per-credit hour parking and transportation access fee for the fall semester.

In June, the student government Senate announced its official opposition to the fee increases.

For both fines and decal fees, annual increases will continue into 2007.

Sylvester said the rate increases are part of a long-term university plan that will include the construction of new parking areas.