Hunter’s Green resident Peter Mirones (left) listens as residents voice their concerns about bike and pedestrian safety in New Tampa, as well as about the reckless driving that Mirones and others say has contributed to some of our area’s traffic problems. (Photo: John C. Cotey)

After sitting in on a quickly organized town hall meeting called by a local resident, District 7 City of Tampa councilman Luis Viera says the next New Tampa Council (NTC) meeting could be one of its most informative, as well as most important.

On Wednesday, July 25, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Compton Park in Tampa Palms, the NTC will host a town hall with the City of Tampa’s Transportation Department, as well as with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

Viera says that the city will discuss the new timing for the traffic signals on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., including the troublesome intersection at Cross Creek Blvd., as well as upcoming transportation projects that will affect our area.

“It’s very important for New Tampa residents to come to this meeting,” Viera says. “There are a lot of exciting and pivotal things happening in our city with regards to mass transit and transportation and we need to be updated on all these developments. And, most importantly, New Tampa residents have to be engaged, because without engagement, we will not see the results we need for our area…and our area needs results now.”

April Ingram would agree.

The K-Bar Ranch (see separate story on pg. 6) resident isn’t exactly sure when her outrage over local traffic in New Tampa boiled over.
Was it during the 30 minutes or so she says it has sometimes taken her to turn right onto Cross Creek Blvd. from BBD on her way home from the University of South Florida?

Was it the first time a car did not yield to her as she tried to walk across Kinnan St. at a designated crosswalk, or was it the second?

Was it one of the many times she’s seen cars speeding by? Or the times she has been awakened at night by the sound of car tires squealing and screeching, the result of racing down Kinnan St.? Or, just how unsafe she feels in general when she’s biking with her son or walking her dog?

Whenever it was, Ingram hosted a meeting at the New Tampa Regional Library on July 2 to find out if she was alone…and she wasn’t.

Roughly a dozen local residents from Meadow Pointe, Cory Lake Isles and Hunter’s Green showed up — including Viera and Eric Denney, an aide to District 5 Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan, as well as two Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) corporals — to sound off on traffic issues they encounter on a daily basis.

“I am pleased and happy that anyone showed up,” said Ingram. “I think this was a good start.”

Those in attendance focused primarily on many of the same issues Ingram has, as well as bicycle and pedestrian safety.

A lot of the frustration was aimed at what they feel was a lack of response to their complaints from the Tampa Police Department (TPD). Most in attendance also argued that more of a police presence in New Tampa would help deter reckless drivers.

Peter Mirones, who lives in Hunter’s Green, said he has seen a parked TPD car dramatically alter the way people drive. But, when that police car leaves, “it’s Hell’s Bells.”

Mirones, an avid bicyclist, says New Tampa is not friendly to bikers, and others agreed. The bike trail on New Tampa Blvd. is in such disrepair it is practically unusable, he said.

Mirones organized a biking event over the weekend to memorialize West Meadows resident Pedro Aguerreberry, who was killed by a driver on June 24. The ride began at the entrance to Flatwoods Park and eventually made its way down New Tampa Blvd. near where Aguerreberry was struck. Mirones said some of the police officers even suggested that the bicyclists should ride in the road because the bike path was so bad.

Others at the July 2 meeting who enjoy but also fear biking in New Tampa suggested some kind of pedestrian bridge that crosses over BBD at Richmond Place Dr. would allow safer access into Flatwoods Park for those who live on the west side of BBD. While there is a light at Richmond Place Dr., the general consensus was that it is not safe for anyone crossing BBD.

Another suggestion: New Tampa should consider installing rectangular rapid flashing beacons, or RRFBs, similar to the ones at crosswalks on E. Fletcher Ave., at some of the New Tampa area’s trouble spots.

Viera encouraged everyone to attend next week’s NTC meeting to present some of the concerns and suggestions that were raised at the meeting.

“There were some good ideas presented tonight,” Viera said. “I think the momentum has really been growing in the City of Tampa the last 6-9 months toward pedestrian safety. Meetings like this can help.”

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