Tampa City Council to consider addressing sidewalk safety at meeting Thursday

Posted at 6:02 PM, Oct 20, 2021

TAMPA, Fl. — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor called on Tampa City Council Wednesday to support a move that would encourage more sidewalks to be built across the city.

“What I am standing before you today asking for the support of City Council and our community to ensure that we have safe sidewalks in our neighborhoods,” said Castor.

At a City Council meeting on Thursday, the city says council members will consider proposing new code language that would require developers to either build a sidewalk in front of a new home or pay into the city’s sidewalk trust fund. Right now, the city explains the code requires building sidewalks with most new construction but says there are some exceptions.

“There’s exceptions if it’s not within three blocks of a school. There’s exceptions if there’s any type of obstructor, telephone pole, those types of things, in front of the house, and so contractors are allowed to pay an in-lieu fee,” said Castor. “One of the issues with that is that we haven’t been as strict on those in-lieu fees as we should have been, and so we aren’t collecting those funds. So tomorrow, the changes to this ordinance, in simple terms, will eliminate a lot of these exceptions to the sidewalk rule, and the end result is that hopefully, we will have more sidewalks in our neighborhoods and that it will make pedestrian safety much better in our community.”

The city says it has committed to Vision Zero, with the goal to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries on its roads. It says building more sidewalks is an important step toward achieving that goal. Castor shared on Wednesday that one goal is to focus on sidewalk construction around schools, ensuring kids have a safe path to and from school.

Emily Hinsdale with Walk Bike Tampa and Sidewalk Stompers says Tampa has over 1,300 miles of roads without sidewalks.

“This sidewalk code change would be a key step, a very critical step in moving Tampa towards a larger sidewalk network,” said Hinsdale. “It could mean seven to eight miles of sidewalk installed per year just because of this code change, or $1.2 million of funding just for sidewalks every year because of this code change.”

The city shared that Mayor Castor, along with several City Council members, are also considering increasing the fees developers pay in order to cover the cost of new sidewalks serving their developments, but said that proposal will not be discussed at Thursday's City Council meeting.