Safe Way to School: West Tampa sidewalks are roads to nowhere

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side’s series Safe Way to School continues this morning with a look at something we use so often, but usually only notice when they are missing… Sidewalks!

Neighbors looking for safe passage have a tough road ahead to try and get sidewalks if they don’t already have them.

We sent Leslee Lacey to West Tampa to find out how residents there are working to move in the right direction and earn themselves sidewalks.

West Tampa is one of the city’s oldest historic areas and a recent resurgence has re-development booming. But many residents are worried that the streets are not safe to accommodate the growth because many sidewalks lead to nowhere.

Sidewalk advocate and long time West Tampa resident Elaine Sumner contacted Leslee about the sidewalk shenanigans in her neighborhood by Raymond James Stadium and Tampa Bay Elementary School.

“There’s a lack of sidewalks in West Tampa. As you can see here we have sidewalks to nowhere,” said Sumner.

She lives on West Braddock Street. It’s one of many streets pedestrians use to park and walk to Buccaneers and USF games as well as concerts and other events like Monster Jam.

The events bring in droves of pedestrian and vehicle traffic to the surrounding neighborhood and Sumner believes the lack of sidewalks makes it very unsafe for pedestrians. Sumner adds that the surrounding side streets are used by drivers to navigate around the area because Himes Avenue and other roads become one way or are blocked off. Plus, the community sells parking slots throughout their yards to event goers, creating a massive increase in foot and vehicle traffic.

Leslee found out that Tampa city codes require all new residential construction to have sidewalks installed, but only in front of the new homes. So for older established neighborhoods like West Tampa, the older home next door would not have a sidewalk.

This creates a situation where sidewalks stop and start all over the neighborhood.

Jean Duncan, the City Director of Stormwater and Transportation, says the code was created in mind that eventually most neighborhoods will have new homes and the sidewalks will connect.

Leslee had to trounce through yards or head to the street to keep walking in the area. She also witnessed many cars exiting the event, coming behind pedestrians and swerving around them.

Duncan told Leslee that residents can petition to have sidewalks installed. At least ten residents must sign the petition found on the City’s website. Then the areas are looked at by importance.

Some of the factors that decide which areas will get budgeted for sidewalks include the American Disabilities Act, whether it’s a collector road, if there is significant pedestrian traffic, if there are bus routes and whether a school is nearby.

Leslee pointed out that Tampa Bay Elementary School is just blocks away from this neighborhood as well as Raymond James Stadium and massive pedestrian traffic due to events. With the Super Bowl being hosted at the stadium in a few years, Sumner is extra concerned about safety, since it’s expected that most attendees will will be out-of-towners.

Leslee brought Sumner’s concerns to Duncan, who promised, “We will certainly be looking at that Super Bowl area prior to the event coming to town, because we want to have as many upgrades as possible to make sure it’s a safe and positive event to anyone who’s coming to the event, whether they are visiting here or they live here.”

So there is hope for Sumner and West Tampa pedestrians who frequent that area. Duncan also told Leslee Tampa’s budget for sidewalks is completed one year in advance. So petitions looked at now would be considered for next year.

If you are interested in getting sidewalks in the City of Tampa the petition and information is located here. 

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