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Fletcher to have a ‘senior zone’

A proposal put forth by Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair to install a “senior zone” traffic environment on Fletcher Avenue between Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and 46th Street was unanimously accepted by Board of County Commissioners in early June 2006. The decision to install the zone most likely will add to the already congested traffic area heavily occupied by USF students as they travel to and from classes.

The senior zone will be designed to allow the safe entry and exit for more than 1,000 residents, staff and guests of the senior community John Knox Village, located at 4100 E. Fletcher Ave. This zone is the first of its type to be adopted and developed in the United States.

Tom Vann, a five-year resident of John Knox Village and a former city councilman who helped get the zone approved, seemed satisfied with the outcome.

“Speeding has become a serious issue in front of our community,” Vann said. “Consequently, residents have had an increasingly difficult time getting in and out of the community.”

Word from USF regarding the new zone has been a bit different.

“This is not our area of jurisdiction,” said Interim Director of Media Relations Lara Wade when asked about the University’s opinion of the new zone. “We hope the zone will work out for everyone. We rely on government officials to make good decisions and to come up with great outcomes. I’m sure (the Hillsborough County Commissioners have) the best traffic experts evaluating the area. Hopefully, this zone will work out for everyone.”

Blair originally came up with the idea of a senior zone when residents of John Knox Village approached him, petitioning for a traffic light to be installed. The Tampa Traffic Commission, according to Blair, determined that a traffic light was not warranted, and would prove too costly.

“Because the intersection didn’t meet certain criteria – such as not having enough accidents, and other traffic lights located too close to John Knox Village, as well as costing over $300,000 – the bid for a light was rejected,” commissioner’s assistant Steve Hall said. “Commissioner Blair, along with the mayor’s office and John Knox resident Vann, all worked together to come up with a solution.”

The senior zone is expected to contain a blinking light or command blinking lights as well as signage to indicate the spanning of the zone. The speed reduction has been rumored to drop from 45 mph to 30 mph, though no official speed limit has been decided upon, according to Hall. The speed limit reduction is expected to be similar to speeds often used in school zones.

The exact area the zone will span also has yet to be decided. The Hillsborough County Commissioners are engaged in the research phase, where they will determine the size of the zone, the speed limits and the type of traffic markers that will be used. The commission will reconvene in August for final approval.

According to the county commission meeting transcript, more than 500 traffic tickets were written in the area between Bruce B. Downs and 46th Street on Fletcher Avenue in 2005.

The entrance has also endured at least two reported traffic accident-related deaths, according to Vann. One was a John Knox resident and the other was a USF student.

The proposed speed limit for the senior zone is 30 mph.

Last year, 500 tickets were issued on Fletcher Avenue from 30th Street to 46th Street.

The senior zone will be the first of its kind in the United States.