TAMPA HEIGHTS, Fla. — Two of Tampa’s busiest streets that lead drivers in and out of downtown are about to get some major safety upgrades.
If you walk, bike or even drive through Tampa Heights and Seminole heights, you know it can feel pretty nerve-wracking.
“What happens during peak traffic hours, people go off of the highway here and they go down to Florida and Tampa and then it becomes a speeding Corridor,” said Justin Ricke, the Vice President of the Tampa Heights Civic Association.
And with narrow sidewalks, blind spots and sharp turns, it can make getting around dangerous.
“When traffic is at its busiest it’s very difficult to cross the street for pedestrians or bikers. Or anybody who is trying to make a turn, there’s nowhere for them to go,” said Matthew Desormeaux.
He works at Blacklist, a bike shop off North Florida. He said many of their customers live close by.
“Keeping those people in the community safe is going to be beneficial for all of the small businesses and people who commute,” he said.
This week U.S. Representative Kathy Castor secured $18 million from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant also known as RAISE for the Tampa Heights and Seminole heights area.
“This $18M grant is important for the growing, dynamic neighborhoods of Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights. We are connecting Tampa neighborhoods, decreasing vehicle traffic and improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. I championed this grant, with Mayor Castor, to lift our neighborhoods, increase equity, create jobs, build mobility, and provide needed revitalization to our streets. We are united in our commitment to Build Back Better for our neighbors, for our environment, and for future generations,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
She also said it goes hand-in-hand with the Build grant secured in 2020.
“This builds upon another grant we announced last year, the build grant, that will help extend the Riverwalk, and connect neighborhoods to the west of the the Hillsborough River," she said.
The original ask was $25 million and the Florida Department of Transportation met that goal and then some. Nearly $39 million will now go towards improving North Florida Avenue and Tampa Street.
“And it’s not just sidewalks or crosswalks it’s really a whole litany of issues that are we really face as a community with those two corridors,” said Ricke.
“We will slow down low down the traffic, the speed of the traffic, while the volume remains the same, but also provide segregated bike paths and lighted wider sidewalks for our pedestrians,” said Mayor Jane Castor.
The project will also focus on adding crosswalks, improving intersection geometry, addressing flooding issues by creating a new draining system, creating an outside travel lane exclusively for bus rapid transit, and extending the streetcar from downtown to Palm Avenue.
“Were hoping that it doesn’t just stop there that it goes even further into Seminole Heights. We feel it’s crucial that are two neighborhoods are connected into the downtown corridor,” Ricke said.
“We all understand that Tampa is growing by leaps and bounds but in order to keep it special in order to make sure our streets are safer in order to get people out of their cars we have got to invest in connecting neighborhoods," said Kathy Castor.
The project will also serve neighborhoods identified by the Hillsborough MPO as “Communities of Concern” which include areas of poverty and concentrations of zero-car households.
Construction is expected to begin within a few months.