Tampa Palms Blvd. is getting repaved, thanks to nearly $3 million in the City of Tampa’s 2022 budget, and planners would also like to put the failing roadway on a… well, diet.
That was the suggestion at a Sept. 28 virtual presentation and Q-&-A session, as the city kicked off the public input portion of the planned redesign of Tampa Palms Blvd.
Cal Hardie, P.E., the City of Tampa’s capital projects manager, said the best solution to the main concerns raised in past meetings about Tampa Palms Blvd. — namely pedestrian safety and speeding along the arterial roadway — would be to reduce it from four lanes to two lanes, while adding other safety enhancements.
“There is a need for traffic calming and there is speeding along the corridor,” Hardie said. “The fact that you can’t enforce the speed limit makes us look for other means of controlling speeds. With that in mind, we developed a concept to take out a travel lane (in each direction).”
According to a recent study, the average driving speed in the corridor is 47 mph, and 43 mph in school zones. The current speed limit is 40, which would be reduced to 35 mph under the new design.
The loss of a lane didn’t seem to sit too well with some of the residents on the virtual meeting call, where they were able to ask questions and make other suggestions.
Most of those who submitted questions offered other their own solutions, like keeping the four lanes and just narrowing them, worried that reducing the roadway to one lane would cause bottlenecks.
“The prospect of taking (a lane) away from Tampa Palms Blvd. seems to be something of a stretch,” said District 7 Tampa City Council member Luis Viera, who represents New Tampa. “But I’m certainly here to listen.”
Hardie said traffic calming could be accomplished by narrowing the existing lanes, “but it’s not nearly as effective as actually removing a travel lane.”
Tampa Palms Blvd. is being resurfaced in two segments – the south loop (or Segment 1, see map on next page), which runs from the north intersection of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. to the south intersection through Tampa Palms Areas 3 and 1), and the north loop, or Segment 2, which runs from the south intersection of BBD to Ebensburg Dr. In Tampa Palms Area 2.
Both segments are great candidates for a “road diet” according to Hardie, based on current ADT (average daily traffic) numbers. Segment 1’s ADT number is 9,515 daily trips, a number expected to rise to 11,611 by 2040.
Segment 2, the shorter of the segments, has 3,455 daily trips and is projected to have 4,216 by 2040.
Hardie says anything under 10,000 is considered a great candidate for reduction, and 10,000-15,000 is considered a good candidate. Because Tampa Palms is mostly developed out, those numbers aren’t expected to fluctuate or change much, he added.
Hardie unveiled a rather expansive plan, called a Complete Street Project, that goes far beyond just repaving the cracking road from Ebensburg Dr. to the south intersection with BBD, and then continuing on to the northern intersection.
The portion of Tampa Palms Blvd. north and east of Ebensburg Dr. to BBD was previously resurfaced in 2012 and is not included in the project.
A two-lane Tampa Palms Blvd. will reallocate right of way space for buffered bicycle lanes, enhanced crossings, additional school pickup lanes for Tampa Palms and Chiles elementary schools and even include roundabouts at the northern and southern intersections at Compton Dr.
Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs), or pedestrian-activated warning devices, would be installed at the highest volume crossings at Amberly Dr. (west & east of BBD), Treeland Ct., Tampa Palms Trail and the northern intersection of Compton Dr.
The intersections at BBD themselves would remain untouched.
Hardie is aware that there will be resistance to the initial plan.
“This is the beginning of our public input,” he said. “This is not the not final design. This is basically our first stab at what we think is possible, based off some of the feedback we initially received. This is just the beginning of the dialogue.”
And, by the way, none of it is funded, he added. Only the resurfacing and restriping of Tampa Palms Blvd. is accounted for in the city’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget at this point. Hardie said more meetings will be planned in early 2022, before the resurfacing begins.