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Tampa needs to improve road quality and safety

Traffic near USF can be a constant problem for students, and the Tampa Bay area is among the worst places to drive, walk or bike in the nation, according to two national studies.

The area including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater is the worst for commuters, according to Forbes, which ranked 60 metropolitan areas on the quality of their commute. Directly above Tampa in the rankings were Detroit and Atlanta.

Tampa needs to take drastic action to change this statistic. Any efforts to improve transportation will cost taxpayers, but in the long run, improved roadways will be a boon to the area’s economy.

Forbes looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Transportation Institute to calculate the percentage of commuters with drives longer than an hour, congestion and the percentage of “green commuters” – those who carpooled or used other means of transportation.

The Tampa area ranked 45th for traffic delays, 53rd for green commuters and 41st for travel time, with these averages leading to the No. 60 overall rating.

Many Tampa residents are not green commuters because they have good reason not to walk or bike to work. The Tampa area ranked second on a list of the most dangerous U.S. cities for pedestrians in 2007-08, according to a study published by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership in November.

The study looked at the number of pedestrian fatalities compared to the amount of walking down in 52 metropolitan areas. It found that some of the most dangerous cities had little foot traffic but a relatively high number of fatalities.

Florida cities took the top four slots, with Orlando-Kissimmee beating Tampa for No. 1.

The study recommends cities improve and increase the number of sidewalks and bike lanes to be more pedestrian friendly. Such improvements would be a huge benefit to USF students around Fowler and Fletcher avenues.

Traffic near USF is such a problem that Hillsborough County’s Transportation Division proposed plans in September to improve bicycle, pedestrian and bus safety near the campus by adding better signs at intersections and improving the visibility of crosswalks.

From 2007 to 2009, there were at least 15 crashes and two fatalities in the area from Fletcher Avenue to 15th Street to 46th Street, Angelo Rao, an engineer specializing in Transportation for Livable Communities, said to The Oracle in September.

One solution proposes a transit tax that would increase the sales tax by one cent to pay for improvements to area transportation and fund projects like the light rail system.

Hillsborough County currently has $4 billion in unfunded transportation needs, County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said to the St. Petersburg Times.

This sales tax would be an important first step in fixing Tampa’s traffic nightmare. Tampa taxpayers should be willing to support any initiative that will shorten their commute and improve their safety.