Hillsborough wants Tampa to take over some roads; Buckhorn says no


By Christopher O’Donnell, Times Staff Writer


Published: June 8, 2018

Updated: June 8, 2018 at 05:03 PM


TAMPA — Rejected by the city of Tampa, road safety advocates this week turned to Hillsborough County commissioners in their campaign for more traffic calming measures and bike lanes on Bay to Bay Boulevard.

But while the county owns the road, it has virtually no say over it — nor over another 60 miles of county-owned roads that lie within the city.

That has commissioners suggesting it may be time to transfer them to the city.

“The bigger problem is we’re going to get caught in the middle on every county road project in the city that needs major changes to it like pedestrian crosswalks and safe streets,” said Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman. “Unfortunately, our hands are tied on this and legally tied on what we can do.”

But the idea may be dead on arrival: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the city has no interest in taking ownership of county roads.

“They’ve been trying to sell us that broken-down car for a year,” Buckhorn said. “They can look at it all they want. Why would the city take over roads that are in disrepair?”

The brewing dispute could make it tougher for the county and city to reach a new maintenance agreement when their current deal expires at the end of September.

The county came to own roads within the city when they were transferred from state ownership decades ago. They include major thoroughfares like West Shore Boulevard, Columbus Drive and a section of Waters Avenue.

Under the current deal, the county pays for major maintenance like resurfacing, which for future projects is projected to cost $125,000 per lane mile.

The city’s responsibility is to mow grass, fix sidewalks and potholes, and operate and enforce traffic signals. But the city also chips in when it wants additional safety features like pedestrian crosswalks added to maintenance projects.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill acknowledged that the county would have to bring its roads up to a certain standard before they could be transferred to the city.

But Buckhorn said even then it would be unlikely the city would want to take on a long-term commitment to pay for their upkeep. The county has budgeted about $25 million this year for major road maintenance projects.

Residents and road safety advocates including non-profit advocacy group Walk Bike Tampa were among those seeking bike lanes and other traffic calming measures, including a Bay to Bay resurfacing project that’s expected to start this fall.

They renewed those calls recently after a mother and daughter were struck and killed on Bayshore Boulevard, also a county road.

The county is paying $650,000 toward construction of Bay to Bay while the city will chip in $120,000. The plan includes an additional turn lane at Bay-to-Bay and Bayshore and narrower lanes between Dale Mabry Hwy. and Esperanza Ave.

But the city refused to include bike lanes, arguing that the road is too busy and that parallel roads like Euclid and El Prado boulevards would be safer for those riding bicycles.

“Not every road is equipped nor should be a road that has a bike lane,” Buckhorn said.

John Lyons, the public works manager for Hillsborough County, said it might be more efficient if the two agencies were each responsible for their own roads. At the same time, Lyons said, the area’s road network needs to function seamlessly whether drivers are in the city or the county.

“It’s a grid system,” he said, “so the grid has to work together regardless of the jurisdiction of the road.”

Contact Christopher O’Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.