East Tampa neighborhood's bus battle may bring results

TAMPA - People in an East Tampa community have major concerns over a bus stop in their neighborhood. They say it creates major safety issues every time a city bus stops. Now, HART is weighing in and looking to take action.

Now, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit is weighing in on the concerns and looking to take action.

HART officials say the number 12 is one of their busiest routes. So eliminating the stop isn't an option, but after residents in the area complained, even getting their city commissioner involved, now all seem to agree -- something has to be done soon.

On average, more than 200 people are picked up or dropped off by HART's number 12 route on 22nd street near Hillsborough Avenue every day.  It's a busy route that only has one lane of travel in the southbound direction.

"When this bus stops here it creates a major traffic jam for traffic coming from the east, west and north where traffic begins to back up behind the bus," says Essie Sims, Jr. of the East Tampa Community Advisory Committee.

He lives in the community and invited Florida Department of Transportation officials to come take a look at the problems he sees everyday -- like impatient drivers who don't feel like waiting on the bus to stop.

"Many of the cars traveling from the north decide to go down the middle lane of the highway, off the street here, which creates near head on collisions," Sims said.

Traffic can get so bad, there are also concerns for pedestrians crossing the street who aren't always visible to cars trying to avoid the bus.

"Our citizens are running in the path of cars. That we're concerned about," he says.

So Tampa Councilman Frank Reddick contacted the owner of the property adjacent to the stop requesting an easement.

"It's a serious public safety concern," Reddick said.

Earlier negotiations with the out-of-state owner fell through. Now he says the talks are back on the table.

"We look at the police log for the police log and most of the accidents that take place are right in front of the bus," Reddick added.

If the owner cooperates, HART says it could create a bus bay that will give route 12 its own mini-lane to stop without interfering with traffic.      

"They're working on it now. What were trying to do now is negotiate a contractual agreement," Reddick said, in hopes of eliminating confusion and congestion the next time the bus stops here.

Hart officials say they are working on drawing up designs now to help improve the bus stop. If the negotiations work this time around, and if there's an expedited permitting process, HART says the construction could be complete as soon as Fall.

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