The City of Tampa may have had some grander plans for Tampa Palms Blvd., but after some back and forth with residents, the road to getting the project completed appears to be…well…paved.
A second online presentation by the city went better than the first and, barring any major changes, the plans for repaving and adding safety enhancements to Tampa Palms Blvd. should be ready by October. If the city can settle on two contractors — bids are in, so it should be a timely process — for the roadwork, the $3-million-plus project should begin sometime in the first half of 2023, if not sooner, and will be completed by the end of next year.
One full-depth reclamation project contractor will be hired to basically churn up the base material, take out all of the old asphalt and repack it, while a paving contractor will “come in and makes it look all pretty,” said Cal Hardie, the City of Tampa’s capital projects manager, who added that the repaving should only take roughly three months.
“The good news is that Mayor Jane Castor has put some ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act Grant Program) money into the project, so we’re able to expedite the repaving,” Hardie told those participating in the online presentation. “It’s a high priority.”
The repaving of Tampa Palms Blvd. will go forward in two segments — the south loop (or Segment 1), which runs from the north intersection of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. to the south intersection through Tampa Palms Area 3, and the north loop, or Segment 2, which runs from the south intersection of BBD to Ebensburg Dr. in Tampa Palms Area 2.
Not only will the road — which is showing its nearly-40-year-old (in some sections) age and has been labeled “failed” by a few city officials — be repaved, a number of enhancements will be added in the hopes of addressing a number of concerns, including speeding, intersection safety, pedestrian access and school pick-ups and drop-offs.
The multimodal paths, used by pedestrians, skaters, bikers and even golf carts, will not be reconditioned as part of the project.
“We only have the budget for inside the curbs,” Hardie said. “I’m reserving funds because construction costs are skyrocketing. Even though we have a healthy budget, I’m actually a little nervous about being able to fund everything once the bids come in. There is no extra money.”
The city is proposing narrowing the width of the four road lanes to 10 feet each, making room for 2-foot striped buffer on the outside of each lane (curb and median sides).
And, while residents previously shot down the idea of losing a lane which would have made room for a dedicated bike path, there will be shared lane markings added to the outside lanes as a reminder to drivers that bicyclists also may use the lanes.
Hardie said the biggest and most common complaints the city receives about Tampa Palms Blvd. is speeding. The speed limits in various parts of the 4-mile loop are 35 and 40 miles per hour, and the city is recommending a 35 mph speed limit throughout.
There likely will be speed tables or removable street cushions placed at key locations. The removable street cushions are rubber speed tables that are uniquely spaced to allow emergency vehicles (with their wider wheel base) and bikes to pass through unimpeded. If it is determined they would be effective in a different area, they can be easily transferred, unlike your typical cement speed table.
Hardie said enhanced crossings will be added throughout the road at key points. He showed a map that had four marked crossings, and two marked crossings with Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, or RRFBs, at Compton Dr. (southern intersection) and Tampa Palms Trail (the TECO easement). However, since the trail at the TECO easement is not an official road and is on private property, a few residents suggested moving the RRFB to another location, with which Hardie said he agreed.
RRFBs are pedestrian-activated, and Hardie said St. Petersburg installed quite a few of them and found that they were effective in increasing the numbers of cars yielding for pedestrians.
“They (RRFBs) do work very well,” Hardie said.
RRFBs will be a good option at Compton Dr. and Tampa Palms Blvd., which Hardie says is the most dangerous intersection along the roadway. A roundabout was suggested by a few residents.
“A roundabout is not off the table,” Hardie said, “but, with safety needs across the city, we’d have to have a crash history study to fund a roundabout because they are quite expensive. We’re not saying no, but they are not a part of this project.”
The residents online for the presentation, which was followed by a Q-n-A session, seemed in favor of most of what Hardie had to say, a far cry from the first online presentation in September 2021. At that presentation, Hardie pitched the idea to convert the four-lane Tampa Palms Blvd. into two lanes — one in each direction — as a traffic-calming measure. That concept, however, was soundly rejected by residents, who sent more than 100 emails of displeasure to the city.