Six lanes of traffic whizzing by at 50 mph, two turn lanes of hurried drivers making hasty right and left turns and a chorus of blaring car horns greet pedestrians making their way across the intersection of Fowler Avenue and Bull Run. Crossing this intersection to reach the Museum of Science and Industry can be an intimidating and treacherous venture for USF students, faculty and staff. It is an even more hazardous proposition for children at nearby Pizzo Elementary and neighboring charter schools.
Fortunately, navigating this intersection will soon present no more danger than strolling through the neighborhood.
Hillsborough County began building a elevated crosswalk above this intersection three months ago. When complete, the footbridge will provide safe passage for USF and Pizzo Elementary School students, allowing them to stroll across Fowler Avenue 20 feet above the bustling traffic below.
“It is being built to make it safer for students at Pizzo Elementary School and the charter schools to cross Fowler Avenue,” said Tom Mueller, project manager for Hillsborough County’s public works department. “It is also being built to provide USF students, faculty and staff safe access to MOSI.”
“I think it’s a very good idea,” said USF student Jersenia Torres. “It’s safer than crossing Fowler and, you know, getting hit.”
Construction has gone smoothly with the exception of some early difficulties. However, the expected date of completion still remains uncertain.
“It’s coming along good,” said Anthony Whitfield, construction foreman. “Hopefully about another month.” Mueller feels less optimistic, saying that the time frame for completion might be “more like the end of the summer.”
Some major aspects of the construction still linger uncompleted, most notably the stairs and elevators providing access to the overpass.
The project funds, an estimated $2 million, came from a federal grant through the Florida Department of Transportation. Additionally, Hillsborough County spent $350,000 for sidewalk construction to link the north and south sides of the overpass to sidewalks on 50th Street.
The project costs proved greater than originally estimated because of the early construction problems. Designers underestimated the depth necessary for the drilled shaft piles to support the piers on both ends of the overpass.
Other aspects of the construction presented few problems. Putting the steel truss overpass into place required shutting down a section of Fowler for several hours and went very smoothly, according to Mueller.
Hillsborough County contracted the Manhattan Construction Company to build the overpass.
“It’s really been supported very much by USF, MOSI, Pizzo Elementary and the charter schools because of the safety aspect for the kids,” said Mueller.