TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Almost a year after two Plant High School students died in a motorcycle crash, South Tampa residents are pushing to make the intersection where it happened safer.
Neighbors voiced their concerns to City of Tampa and Hillsborough County officials at a meeting Tuesday night organized by the Virginia Park Neighborhood Association.
“This is literally life and death,” said Carroll Ann Bennett from the neighborhood association. “They’re afraid, they’re afraid who is next.”
Since the deadly crash last December, flashing beacon crosswalks for pedestrians have been added to the Bay to Bay Boulevard and Lois Avenue intersection and the speed limit has been reduced by five miles per hour.
City and county officials said the next short-term solution is adding speed tables, which are like speed bumps, near the intersection. Those could be installed by early next year.
“Because people will actually have to slow down before the intersection, I think that will make a big difference,” Bennett said.
Some neighbors say they are disappointed that a Hillsborough County study does not recommend a full traffic light at the intersection.
The study does recommend a “road diet,” which would cut the number of lanes in each direction from two to one and add a third lane in the middle for left turns.
“It reduces points of conflict and point of conflict is a nice way of saying, death,” Bennett said.
The City of Tampa Mobility Director Vik Bhide said reducing the number of lanes is feasible given the volume of traffic on that stretch of Bay to Bay.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Harry Cohen told the meeting attendees that he is committed to supporting the project.
“I think all of them, the outgoing and incoming (commissioners) understand the need for safety improvements and that those need to be prioritized in our budget,” Cohen said.
Bennett said she would like to see more safety changes by the end of the school year, when one of the crash victims Benjamin Francis was set to graduate.
“To see something happen that might prevent another family from experiencing that heartbreak,” Bennett said, “it can help give you a little bit of peace.”
City of Tampa staff will need to come up with a design for the comprehensive road diet that requires approval and funding from the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners.
Commissioner Cohen said he wants the money for that project to be included in next year’s budget.