Safety plans for USF area could have ‘big impact’

Hillsborough County’s Transportation Division proposed plans Wednesday at a public meeting for better bicycle, pedestrian and bus safety for the area around USF’s campus.

The USF Area Multimodal Transportation District Study proposes better signs at intersections for drivers as well as “offset” or diagonal crosswalks, which make pedestrians more visible to drivers, said Angelo Rao of Volkert & Associates, Inc.

Because USF has the “most active pedestrian population in the city,” safety in the campus area is a priority, said Scott Pringle, project manager of Pedestrian and Transportation Infrastructure of Jacobs Engineering, Inc.

“These potential changes could have a big impact upon USF,” Pringle said.

The study focuses on the area from I-275 to Fletcher Avenue to 56th Street. It includes as far north as Sinclair Hills Road and Livingston Avenue to Fowler Avenue, said Ned Baier, manager of Planning and Growth Management for Hillsborough County.

“This proposed plan will make it easier to travel to the University,” Baier said. “There will be more sidewalks, especially on the Fletcher Avenue side of campus.”

There have been 15 crashes in the last two years and two fatalities in the area from Fletcher Avenue to 15th Street to 46th Street, said Rao, an engineer specializing in the Transportation for Livable Communities.

Implementing and improving the safety of bicycle lanes on and off campus would promote biking as a commuting option in the area, said Jason Jackman, program outreach coordinator for the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research.

“This is all about connectivity,” Jackman said. “The infrastructure needs improvements, yet it needs education to help implement these changes.”

The cost of the entire project depends on how long it will take and the amount of work involved, which could range from several hundred small projects to two or three bigger ones, Pringle said.

“We are still early in the process and only started the project a little over a month and a half ago,” Pringle said.

Baier said more details about the entire safety project will come toward the end of October to early November. Around that time, the county will hold another public meeting to discuss details, he said.

“This is an infectious kind of project and I am hoping that this spreads to other areas and creates developments through the county,” Rao said.