OPINION: It’s time for more investments in pedestrian safety at USF

The city of Tampa needs to use funding to help make USF safer for pedestrians.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) on Wednesday. This new federal grant program will work to decrease traffic fatalities and promote the National Roadway Safety Strategy.

Using the federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Tampa administration should invest in sidewalk construction on and around the USF campus – especially in areas such as the USF College of Public Health (CPH).

The press release for the National Roadway Safety Strategy was announced on Jan. 27, 2022, and Buttigieg’s recent SS4A program was created to facilitate this strategy and reach the goal of zero roadway or traffic-related deaths in the future. With this, he has allocated $800 million to be divided among communities recognized as “hotspots” for traffic incidents.

Hillsborough County currently has the highest per capita traffic fatality rate within large counties in the U.S., reporting 9.2 deaths per 100,000 commuters, according to a 2021 study by Auto Insurance provider ValuePenguin. As a result, the county has received $19.7 million for transit safety, as reported by the USDOT.

Currently, the CPH has minimal accessibility for pedestrians. Leading around USF Banyan Circle, there are no sidewalks and students are expected to walk on the road or small patches of grass on a daily basis. Not only is this an inconvenience for students, but it is also a potential danger to pedestrians and drivers around the CPH. 

“Every driver, passenger and pedestrian should be certain that they’re going to arrive at their destination safely, every time,” Buttigieg said when announcing the program.

A student poll yielded that 74% of students have had dangerous experiences with vehicles and traffic on campus, according to an Oct. 6 article by The Oracle

Additionally, a student recalls witnessing many near-hits to USF pedestrians. It is the duty of the university to protect and ensure the safety of its students on the premises; therefore, sidewalks must be installed in this area and around campus. 

USF Transportation Services should prioritize the installation of sidewalks around the CPH and any projects relating to student road safety by asking for funding from the federal grants made to Tampa and Hillsborough.

The USDOT is responsible for maintaining street and pedestrian safety while USF is responsible for maintaining a safe and comfortable environment for its students. They must work together to improve conditions for pedestrians. One can only hope this is realized before negligence harms a student.