Proposal converts 4-lane Bay to Bay down to 2

- People who live and work in South Tampa are sounding off on a proposal that converts Bay to Bay Boulevard to a two-lane roadway with two bike lanes. Some drivers worry that would lead to more congestion on a road traveled by more than 18,000 vehicles a day.

The City of Tampa calls it a "road diet." In transportation terms, that means losing lanes, instead of pounds. As the city has evolved, so has its traffic needs.

"If we started this road from scratch, we would have designed it this way," said Jean Duncan, director of transportation and stormwater services.

Currently, Bay to Bay is a four-lane urban collector road. It has two lanes going east and two lanes going west. Under the proposed Complete Streets project, the one-mile section between Dale Mabry and Bayshore would be re-striped for three lanes. There would be one travel lane going east, one travel lane going west, one two-way center turn lane, and buffered bicycle lanes on each side.

According to the city, this would reduce crashes, make left turns safer, increase space between vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians, and lower speeds.

"We have speeding complaints all the time on this road," Duncan said. "We will have narrower travel lanes which encourages traffic calming. The less space you have to navigate, the slower you tend to go."

It's one of the city's Complete Streets projects. Similar work has been done on almost a dozen city streets including Platt and Cleveland Streets.

But, not everyone wants this one get the green light.

"This is not going to solve the long-term problem," said Fassil Gabremarian. "I think we have population explosion. There is a lot of growth. Traffic congestion is not going to go away."

Others, like Yvette Chapman have put their concerns in writing, saying, "It is extremely interesting to me that all the studies and documents pertaining to these proposed changes DO NOT take into account the numerous projects under construction at this very moment—all the condos, townhomes, apartments, etc. being built downtown, the development of Water Street, two towers currently under construction on Bayshore, multifamily housing being built now just north of Bay to Bay off Bayshore, the Georgetown development off Westshore that is in the works, all the multifamily housing around MacDill from Kennedy to Gandy, and, all the multifamily housing being built south of Gandy. I have seen NOTHING either regarding the projected growth that Tampa is expected to have in the coming years."

"There's just so much volume that it's going to definitely slow things down a bit for drivers," said Karl Smart as he loaded his bicycle into his car.

But, as someone who also enjoys riding on two wheels, Smart can see the upside.

"This will make it so I can actually ride on the road, so from that perspective, I do like what they are proposing," Smart said.

Nicole Brownell, manager of Feet First agreed, saying, "It'll be great for our active bikers and runners in this area, just keeping everybody safe."

Whether you like it or you don't, Transportation and Stormwater Services wants to hear from you. Their public comment period ends this Friday. After that, the city of Tampa will make the final decision. If they move forward, construction could begin as early as April.

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