May 22, 2020
By: Tiffany Razzano
TAMPA — Tampa City Council postponed a decision to shut down part of Bayshore Boulevard to vehicle traffic once a week.
At their meeting Thursday, council members discussed the proposal to open the waterfront roadway’s northbound lane to pedestrians on Sundays starting in June, requesting that city staff conduct an in-depth study on how this closure might affect the area. The council will resume the discussion and vote on the matter in September.
Councilmember Charlie Miranda questioned many aspects of the plan, including the impact the closure will have on nearby streets and parking available for those traveling to Bayshore Boulevard for recreational activities such as walking, running, or cycling.
“Once you close that road, it’s everybody’s road, not just the people from Bayshore,” he said.
He added, “I don’t understand the whole logic because no one’s explained it. This operation without a study, without knowledge of the facts, it’s just something to me that I don’t sponsor because I can’t vote that way.”
Councilmember Joseph Citro agreed.
“As a resident who lives on Bayshore (Boulevard), I am behind this 100 percent,” he said. Still, he has many questions about the plan. “I haven’t had all the facts yet…I am concerned about the facts I have yet to hear. I want to know, specifically, how it’s going to be done.”
Vik Bhide, the director of the city’s Mobility Department, said their concerns were “valid.”
“At this point, we haven’t really done a deep dive,” he said, calling the plan an “experimentation.”
He added that the city is “working with several stakeholders to conduct and review such a study right now.”
The plan came out of Mayor Jane Castor’s Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow initiative, which consists of five advisory teams focusing on different citywide issues, Bhide said. The Transportation Advisory Team recommended staff “engage community members to work with the city to host activities and events that activate city streets as dynamic public spaces,” he said.
Closing Bayshore Boulevard to traffic on Sundays aligns with the “open streets” concept of “reallocating the public realm for different modes, like pedestrians and bicyclists,” he said.
City staff will also identify other Tampa roadways that might benefit from similar projects. Currently, as the state’s economy reopens following closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s Lift Up Local Economic Recovery Plan has shut down streets in several neighborhoods to allow restaurants and retail businesses to temporarily expand their footprints.