The bike and pedestrian path along New Tampa Blvd. in West Meadows is showing its age.
If bike and pedestrian paths are supposed to offer safety and comfort to those riding or walking on them, then the one running along the north side of New Tampa Blvd. in West Meadows has failed, say many of those who frequent it.
That may, however, be changing.
While there is no schedule or cost yet for the project, Duncan says the city will begin looking at the pavement condition, the drainage issues that leave much of the path puddled hours after rainstorms and any issues with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) in regards to things like wheelchair ramps.
“Once we identify all of that, we will lay out a schedule for a design, which will require us to go out and do some survey work,” Duncan says. “Once that is complete, we will go to construction.”
Duncan says the city is targeting spring of 2019 to begin the project.
That may not satisfy all of Brad Van Rooyen’s wishes for New Tampa Blvd. and its battered pathway, but it is better than nothing, the West Meadows Home Owners Association president says.
Van Rooyen says he has been in discussions with the city about the condition of the road and pathway for more than a decade.
“Walk that path from Publix to the (New Tampa Blvd. Gateway) Bridge and if you don’t twist an ankle, trip over a root or wear out your sneakers, I’d be surprised,” he says.
Van Rooyen may be using a touch of hyperbole to make his point, but he says he has seen people trip on the path, and one bicyclist who hit a bad patch on the pathway crashed to the ground and had to be transported via ambulance to a hospital.
The pathway, critics says, has worn through its original surface, is jagged, cracked and uncomfortable.
That was evident on June 28, when 100 or so bicyclists came out for a memorial ride in honor of Pedro Aguerreberry, the West Meadows resident who was struck by a car and killed while out riding his bike with his two young children.
The bike path was so bad, says Hunter’s Green resident Peter Mirones, that police officers directed the bicyclists to ride in the road.
“After the extremely tragic accident, the memorial ride definitely drew some more attention to it,” Duncan says.
Mirones took District 7 Tampa City Council member Luis Viera out to the path on July 2 to show him the cracked, uneven surface and to take pictures. Viera then asked the city staff to look into it, which it will be doing.
Van Rooyen said that, at one point, West Meadows was going to pave the bike path itself, but then-District 7 City Council member Lisa Montelione, who represented New Tampa from 2011-16, told him it was the city’s responsibility.
Van Rooyen met with city officials, showed them pictures of the deterioration, which was so bad the city’s attorney, “actually made us leave the room, and within 48 hours, some of the really serious potholes and dropoffs were fixed,” he says.
But, they were not enough, as the popular pathway continues to lose its form. Van Rooyen says that almost the entire length of the path — roughly 1.5 miles — needs to be re-finished.
“I get it, the city has budget constraints, and every community has got issues,” Van Rooyen says. “I’m not ungrateful. It’s a step in the right direction. But, the way to solve the problem is to spend the money and get it fixed the right way, so we don’t have to worry about it for the next 15 years. Anything short of a complete repaving is like putting on a Band-Aid. Eventually, it has to all be done.”
Van Rooyen adds that he thinks the city needs to not only take a look at the bike path, but should examine New Tampa Blvd. itself as well, which has weeds and roots growing up through sections of it.
Van Rooyen says that the road was built to handle West Meadows traffic, but once the bridge linked the road to Tampa Palms, there has been a dramatic increase in traffic and it has taken its toll on New Tampa Blvd.
“The road has never been paved, never been seal coated,” he says. “The markings on the road have become so worn down you can’t see the turn lanes. And, you see more and more potholes.”
He adds that the city was under the impression West Meadows was handling its own roads, and anytime someone called the city they were passed along to the HOA or Community Development District (CDD). “Then it just fell off everybody’s radar,” he says.
At least for now, it appears to be back on the city’s radar.