March 2021 – On March 10, 2021, Smart Growth America released its Dangerous by Design 2021 report that examined motor vehicle traffic-related pedestrian deaths across the United States. According to the report, the number of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles increased 45% from 2010 – 2019.
“We call on state DOTs and MPOs to put people first and give their organizations the tools and training they need to create transportation networks that serve all users,” the report said.
For 47 years, the Hillsborough MPO has been answering that call. Since its inception, MPO research and recommendations have led to various transportation safety improvements. This year alone, as result of the MPO putting safety projects at the top of the priority list, more than $38 million will be added to the FDOT Work Program for traffic operational safety improvements. One example is the installation of new crosswalks with pedestrian hybrid beacons along busy streets such as Hillsborough Ave., Busch Blvd., and Fletcher Ave.
“Fletcher Ave. has been the most effective,” said Johnny Wong who works as a principal planner for the MPO. “Improvements reduced fatalities by 60%. Now there are push-button crosswalks, bike lanes, and a reduced speed limit.”
Dr. Wong pointed out that the effectiveness of the improvements is a direct result of the bundling of multiple improvements.
“Some people believe you can just change one thing, but it takes more than one change to make a difference.”
The MPO also takes action through, Vision Zero: a public engagement movement that advocates for policies to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The project gets its name from its mission that aims to reduce these incidents to zero. Last September, Gena Torres, Vision Zero Project Manager, spoke about the importance of the program in a video produced by 83 Degrees Media.
“The changes that we’re making to our streets… are making them safer, like the cycle track on Cass St. But it also is bringing people in our neighborhoods and communities because it’s fun,” Ms. Torres said in the video.
Back in 2007, Ms. Torres, who also serves as an MPO executive planner, took on one of her first projects: the Nebraska Ave. road diet. The road diet, which was completed in 2009, involved lane eliminations that resulted in a significant reduction in pedestrian and bicycle crashes. However, even with the success of the road diet project and many others, the Dangerous by Design 2021 report still revealed that the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area ranked eighth on its Pedestrian Danger Index. But the report also points out the critical role the MPO plays in improving transportation safety.
Smart Growth America is holding a free online workshop on March 25, 2021 at 2 p.m. about the findings in the Dangerous by Design 2021 report. To register, visit https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3842285578068546319.