Tampa officials show urgency in adding sidewalk and lights to scene of accident

One reason the city has not been able to begin immediate improvements in the area is that officials must negotiate with a private homeowner before constructing the sidewalk. Dorzback said her department had had "positive communications" with the owner since submitting a proposal on Tuesday. She said the city is actively negotiating with the owner on an agreement, though she could not give a firm timetable as to when that agreement would be finalized.

Emphasizing that she took the Council's message seriously to do whatever it takes to make a deal with the landowner, Dorzback said that the city has already spoken with a contractor who can build the sidewalk, and that it could be finished within two weeks' time.

She also said that the city has prepared a cost estimate schedule for speed tables on 43rd Street, since the city controls the right-of-way there. She said the contractor will work on weekends to get that accomplished and that it will be completed before Christmas.

Dorzback added that TECO has installed a streetlight just north of the Hillsborough Avenue intersection at 43rd, and is working on another lighting structure just north of the area where the accident occurred.

She added that a lot at 43rd and Hillsborough owned by the Hillsborough County School Board has been cleared of vegetation so motorists will have a clear line of sight when making a turn.

Council member Frank Reddick, whose district includes the area in question, was effusive in thanking Dorzback and other city officials for their notable sense of urgency over the past week.

"When it's time to give praise, I'm willing to give praise," he said.

Council member Mike Suarez also thanked city officials, but asked Dorzback if the city has begun doing an inventory of other parts of the city where a dangerous lack of sufficient street lighting could spur accidents.

Steve Daignault, administrator of public works and utility services, told Suarez that something of that magnitude would require additional funding currently not in his budget. Suarez said he understood that, and asked that Daignault come back before the Council with a cost estimate so that the board could discuss allocating such funds.

Suarez said that there were unquestionably other poorly lit danger spots in a city as old as Tampa. "I don’t want another tragedy before us when we haven’t done our homework," he said.

A week ago, Tampa City Council members blasted the Buckhorn administration for not acting with sufficient urgency on pedestrian safety improvements in an area of East Tampa where a pregnant woman was hit and killed last month.

Receiving the brunt of that criticism was Jean Dorzback, the city's transportation manager. Unquestionably bruised from that encounter, she came prepared on Thursday morning when she reappeared before the Council, listing a series of actions that the city is engaging in to build a sidewalk and improve lighting at 43rd Street near Hillsborough Avenue.

Council members were angry a week ago, feeling powerless to respond to the emotional pleadings of family members of the woman who died last month, 27-year-old Monica Alvarez. She was run down by a motorist who said he never saw her. The accident happened when Alvarez and a friend were walking on the street in the absence of a sidewalk; they were both pushing their babies in strollers at the time (Alvarez's 1-year-old daughter remains in a coma). Inadequate lighting also contributed to the accident.

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