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2020 Hasn’t Been a Disaster for Tampa Transit, Officials Say

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2020 Hasn’t Been a Catastrophe for Tampa Transit, Officers Say


(TNS) — Transportation, like each nook of life, offered challenges in 2020. Bus ridership plummeted, dashing elevated on native roads and the state needed to delay tasks after the funds took a considerable hit.

However whereas native officers fear over when the West Shore interchange will likely be constructed and whether or not transit ridership will ever rebound, different areas of enchancment offered purpose to have fun this 12 months — new journey lanes, some added transit funding and the daybreak of driverless shuttles.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor stated one silver lining in a pandemic 12 months was much less visitors on native roads.

“It makes it a bit simpler to get tasks carried out extra expeditiously,” Castor stated. “And (it’s) safer out on our roadways.”

State officers provided grants for security and transit tasks and had been in a position to pace up timelines for some roadway tasks.

“All in all, I believe we had a extremely good 12 months,” stated David Gwynn, the native Florida Division of Transportation secretary, “should you take out the black swan, as they name it — the factor no person anticipated to occur.”

Right here’s an inventory of a number of the enhancements Tampa Bay noticed this 12 months on its roads and transit strains:

NEW LANES AT THE HOWARD FRANKLAND BOTTLENECK

The north finish of the Howard Frankland Bridge has lengthy been a sore spot for commuters, who are sometimes pressured to attend in visitors because the lanes narrowed from 4 to 2.

However the state introduced some reduction this summer time when it opened new two lanes, one north to downtown Tampa and one other towards the exit for Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa Worldwide Airport and the Veterans Expressway.

The Florida Division of Transportation spent $30 million so as to add the lanes, which opened months forward of schedule.

“We had been in a position to speed up this venture and it was form of a facet impact of the pandemic, as a result of visitors was loads slower than regular,” Gwynn stated.

Nonetheless, the lanes are solely a short-term resolution till a brand new, wider span of the bridge is constructed and connects with a rebuilt West Shore interchange.

State officers stated earlier this month they’ll need to delay the interchange work by two years due to pandemic-related funds cuts.

$67 MILLION FOR TAMPA STREETCAR EXTENSION

Street development funding took successful this 12 months, with the state saying delays on a number of main tasks. However state and federal {dollars} for transit initiatives in different areas nonetheless flowed, together with the most important grant Tampa Bay has ever acquired from the Florida Division of Transportation.

The TECO Line Streetcar is one step nearer to serving Tampa Heights after state officers pledged $67 million to increase and modernize the streetcar.

The objective is to run the streetcar each 10 minutes and join it with trails, bus service and different modes of transportation.

Town hopes the brand new service will likely be up and operating by the tip of 2026, stated mobility director Vik Bhide. Nevertheless it nonetheless wants native and federal {dollars} to return via earlier than it may well transfer ahead with the $234 million venture.

Town will know in February whether or not the venture certified for a federal grant.

The native match may come from income generated by a transportation gross sales tax voters handed in 2018. The legality of the tax was challenged by Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White. Officers are awaiting a ruling from the Florida Supreme Courtroom earlier than deciding if and after they can spend the cash.

CONSTRUCTION STARTS ON HOWARD FRANKLAND BRIDGE

Tampa Bay’s roads noticed far much less visitors firstly of the pandemic, main Gov. Ron DeSantis to maneuver up $2.1 billion of the state’s greatest street tasks.

A brand new span of the Howard Frankland Bridge is the costliest venture on the governor’s checklist, at $864 million.

For years, native transportation officers have been getting ready to construct a brand new span of the bridge, at instances having to scrap plans resulting from widespread group pushback.

Development crews at the moment are working in Tampa Bay to erect the eight-lane bridge, which is ready to open by 2024. It’ll change the getting old northbound span of the Howard Frankland.

BREAKING GROUND ON TRANSIT BETWEEN ST. PETE, BEACHES

Development began this 12 months on the primary bus speedy transit route in Tampa Bay.

In Could, President Donald Trump introduced a $21.8 million grant for the route linking St. Petersburg and the seashores. The ten.3-mile route is predicted to begin operating in early 2022.

Bus speedy transit is a time period for a route that has its personal devoted lane, fewer stops and faster boarding.

The route, generally known as the SunRunner, could have 16 stops. Buses will run each quarter-hour in their very own lane alongside First Avenues North and South earlier than turning onto Pasadena Avenue South and touring down Gulf Boulevard.

Transit supporters hope the Pinellas route would be the first in a community of bus speedy transit routes connecting the Tampa Bay Area.

“This, actually when you concentrate on it, is the primary huge mass transit step that’s been taken within the area,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman stated. “We’ve all talked about gentle rail, we’ve talked about high-speed rail, we’ve talked about a whole lot of issues, however this isn’t discuss. That is motion. That is what will get us to these locations down the street.”

The same venture linking downtown Tampa and the College of South Florida is in improvement, with Hillsborough County transit officers analyzing visitors, station areas, design and environmental impression. A examine earlier this 12 months discovered that the proposed 16-mile bus line may minimize journey instances in half.

DRIVERLESS SHUTTLES COME TO TAMPA, ST. PETE

This 12 months introduced driverless shuttles to Tampa Bay, giving many locals their first probability to journey an autonomous automobile.

Self-driving shuttle operator Beep launched pilots in each Tampa and St. Petersburg in the course of the fall.

The downtown Tampa route connects Marion Transit Heart with the TECO Line Streetcar. A lot of the 12-block hall is closed to normal visitors. The service carries riders from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and three p.m. to 7 p.m. day by day. A second part includes including a automobile and operating steady service from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The same service in St. Pete hyperlinks the Dali Museum, the Pier and Cross Bay Ferry terminal close to the Vinoy Renaissance Resort. Often known as Ava, the shuttle serves the favored leisure district Wednesday via Sunday.

Each routes are free to journey. Native transit officers are hoping the pilot packages assist individuals develop into extra comfy with driverless automobiles and supply alternatives for utilizing related know-how in Tampa Bay sooner or later.

MORE BIKE LANES, COMPLETE STREETS THROUGHOUT REGION

Typically ranked as one of the crucial harmful locations within the nation for individuals to bike and stroll, Tampa Bay made strides this 12 months to enhance the security of pedestrians and bicyclists.

The early phases of the pandemic noticed extra individuals leaving their automobiles at residence, as an alternative selecting to make use of trails and paths.

Town of Tampa invested in extra bike parking in its downtown garages together with murals at crosswalks designed to sluggish drivers.

Mayor Castor additionally created a brand new place centered on serving to cut back traffic-related deaths to zero. Alana Brasier will head up Tampa’s Imaginative and prescient Zero effort, pushing for street design to guard pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

“I believe that we’ve been in a position to make nice strides in transportation this 12 months with a deal with our full streets and making our roadways safer,” Castor stated.

In St. Petersburg, the Pier district opened this summer time, with an emphasis on offering a secure bicycle and pedestrian area for town.

Curbs had been prolonged at a number of intersections on Third Road between Fifth avenues north and south, which purpose make the world safer for pedestrians by shortening the crosswalk distance and lowering automobile flip speeds.

Subsequent 12 months, town is concentrated on setting up a bikeway alongside Sixth Avenue South, enhancing the Wholesome St. Pete loop bikeway and changing the Martin Luther King Jr. Road bridge.

PINELLAS, HILLSBOROUGH INVEST IN ELECTRIC BUSES

Transit businesses in each Pinellas and Hillsborough counties acquired federal grants so as to add electrical buses to their fleets.

Pinellas County received its first two electrical buses in 2018 and acquired 4 extra this 12 months.

The Hillsborough Space Regional Transit Authority is shopping for its first 4 electrical buses this 12 months, due to a $2.7 million federal grant. The buses are anticipated to be on county streets inside two years.

Not like the loud, exhaust-filled rumblings of diesel buses, these automobiles will run completely on a cost, produce zero emissions and roll quietly.

©2020 the Tampa Bay Instances, Distributed by Tribune Content material Company, LLC.

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