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Upgrades to UT begin with street changes

Boulevard on the campus' west side will become more of a campus street with a median and landscaping, officials say.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 25, 2002


A busy industrial road on the edge of downtown is getting a new look for the sake of safety.

The University of Tampa and the city's transportation department have teamed up to improve N Boulevard from Kennedy Boulevard to Cass Street through the western part of campus.

They want it safer for students crossing the street and more attractive to the 12,500 motorists who drive it daily.

"We're going to make it a gateway so people know and feel they are driving through the University of Tampa campus," said Rod Plowman, special assistant to UT's president.

The two-step project calls for reducing the number of lanes from four to two and adding a turn-only lane at certain spots. The first phase involves restriping the road. Later on, the university will add landscaped medians, brick crosswalks and an entry sign. Trees will line the street.

Planners expect that people will slow down if they have fewer lanes. Signs post 25 mph and 30 mph limits, but few drivers obey. Ninety percent go faster than 25 mph, according to a UT-commissioned study by Tindale-Oliver and Associates.

The improvements are part of the university's long-term plan to enhance and expand the west side of campus. Top on the list: a 900-space parking garage and 480-bed residence hall under construction along N Boulevard, originally an industrial route near the railroad tracks.

University officials hope to have the restriping done by the time the $6-million garage opens in December. The $16-million hall, Stadium Place, is scheduled for students in the fall of 2003. Both will boost the number of pedestrians crossing the street.

The city will likely pay for the restriping, which may extend south to Swann Avenue. UT will cover the medians and landscaping, said Plowman, who gave the City Council an overview of the project earlier this month. The cost has not been determined.

Elton Smith, the city's transportation manager, said the project will help pedestrians and drivers who share the busy street. On average, about 90 students cross the street every hour. Many are in a hurry and don't use the crosswalk in front of the Martinez Sports Center.

"It's a win-win because we don't lose a lot of capacity but we gain a lot of safety," Smith told council members.

A total of 90 accidents happened along N Boulevard between Kennedy and Cass in 1999, 2000 and 2001, according to the traffic study. Many occurred as people tried to make a left-hand turn from North Boulevard to Kennedy, said Doug Coxon, a senior transportation planner.

Although the project shrinks the number of lanes, Coxon expects traffic to flow more smoothly because cars will have designated lanes for turning and going straight. Currently, cars must wait behind turning vehicles, essentially making the road two lanes, he said.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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