City seeks input on creating a more bearable Fruitville Road
As the city develops plans to make Fruitville Road more inviting for pedestrians, it’s asking residents to offer feedback on how the streetscape could be improved.
| 6:00 a.m. December 3, 2015
Mike Lasche has traveled a two-lane Fruitville Road, and he doesn’t want to go down that road again.
In the late ’80s, resident outcry and the desire to create an arterial connection between I-75 and the barrier islands led to the widening of the roadway, he said. That’s why, as the city ponders how to design a more pedestrian-friendly Fruitville Road between U.S. 301 and U.S. 41, Lasche is perplexed by the future project.
“It’s odd, to me, to start out with a residential road, turn it into a high-volume thoroughfare and then go back,” Lasche said. “I think we should maybe think about what we want this road to be and the vital needs it serves.”
On Monday, the city held a fourth workshop to discuss the Fruitville Road improvement project, which will be designed next year. Chief Planner Steve Stancel, who is overseeing the project, said there’s a major reason why the city is moving in a new direction on Fruitville Road: The street isn’t working well.
“You can see by going down that corridor whether it’s a successful corridor or not,” Stancel said. “And it’s not.”
The city hopes to achieve a few goals with this project. It wants to increase pedestrian comfort and the viability of new developments along Fruitville, two common criticisms of the street in its current state. It also wants to avoid decreasing the existing level of service for motor vehicles.
Monday’s workshop focused on visions, as city staff and a consulting firm attempted to gauge residents’ priorities from those in attendance. One of the most hotly contested topics was the potential narrowing of the roadway from four lanes to two lanes.
With most buildings coming up right to the edge of the sidewalk, there’s not much wiggle room on the 76-foot-wide street. Many residents want the 4-foot-wide sidewalks expanded, and others would like bigger bike lanes, landscaped medians or on-street parking. To achieve that goal, something’s got to give.
That didn’t sit well with those residents who are concerned about the capacity for vehicles along Fruitville Road, which also serves as an evacuation route.
Stancel said the city is going into the design process with no preconceived notions. Tampa-based firm Sam Schwartz Engineering is consulting with the city on the project and will develop a series of potential designs based on the feedback the city has received over the past month.
The city will hold additional public forums to generate more input regarding the design and scope of the streetscape improvements before the City Commission makes a final decision early next year.
“At this point, we’ve taken input on concerns and issues and tried to identify things that are happening out in the corridor.” Stancel said. “The next step, we hope, is some additional input and some visioning.”