TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County is planning to make major safety improvements like high visibility crosswalks, sidewalk repairs, buffers and more at two schools crossings in the Northdale area.
Merissa Colon’s first grader and third grader should be able to walk to school together. After all, they live just feet from Claywell Elementary School.
But, that short walk is strictly off-limits, and Colon blames what she sees daily: heavy traffic, speeding, and few safety measures.
“It’s crazy, and I mean, there is a crossing guard there and they do great. I’m glad that they’re there. But, even still, they’ve had people that, you know, have run the light and stuff, so I mean, they're very good about it, but it’s still, you know — they want to walk to by themselves because we’re literally right up the street, but I still won’t allow them to do it,” she said.
She has another student who drives to nearby Gaither High School, and that brings out her worry too.
“I mean, I worry about her driving in general, but just — there’s so many cars. It’s horrible,” Colon said.
According to Hillsborough County, both school crossings — in the Northdale area — are on its list of priorities where safety improvements are needed most.
At Claywell, Hillsborough County Safety & Mobility Engineer Abigail Flores is particularly concerned about a lack of speed control measures. At Gaither, she’s concerned about students walking on sidewalks that are located so close to a busy North Dale Mabry Highway.
“There are some fatal and some severe crashes on these corridors, so we know it’s an issue and that’s why we’re zeroed in on these areas,” Flores said.
Flores said a lengthy list of improvements should be constructed soon. Potential improvements include high visibility crosswalks, sidewalk repairs, buffers between sidewalks and the roads, better lighting, and more.
“We will be putting improvements in the ground this year, and then, we will be seeking funding for the next round of improvements to be designed next year,” said Flores.
The improvements are part of the county’s School Routes Safety Improvement Program, which began in 2019. The county used existing data to rank 132 schools on county-owned and maintained roadways based on pedestrian risk, number of students, and socioeconomic factors. According to a presentation available online, Claywell and Gaither are high on the list.
To Colon, the improvements will be welcomed and might mean her kids can take the short walk to school someday.
Right now, the county is seeking input from parents and others who are familiar with the school crossings. You can complete an online survey until Sunday, March 13.