The Story of Sterling Avenue: Getting over the Hump

Driving down Sterling Avenue north of Plant High School, cars slow to pass over a series of speed tables.

The City of Tampa says this sign, the only speed deterrent on Sterling Avenue, is not enforceable.

The City of Tampa says this sign, the only speed deterrent on Sterling Avenue, is not enforceable.

Driving down Sterling Avenue to the south, particularly south of Bay to Bay Blvd., it’s a different story – with no stop signs, no crosswalks, and not even enforceable speed limit signs, there is no deterrent to excessive speeding.

Who took speed tables off the table on Tampa streets?

Speed tables, or speed humps, are long, flat speed bumps designed to slow but not halt traffic, typically 6 feet long and 3 to 4 inches high. According to the Institute of Transportation Engineers, installing speed tables can reduce crash incidents by 45%. They have been popularly used in large US cities, including Oakland, CA, Austin, TX, and New York City. Other countries, including the UK and Australia have used speed tables more widely.

Ben Donnell on Sterling Avenue and sees people speed past his house daily. “My concern is [Corona] park. Kids walk there by themselves and there are a lot of people with strollers,” he says. Donnell called the City of Tampa to look into installing speed tables on Sterling Avenue.

However, funding for speed tables as a traffic calming measure has been eliminated, Donnell discovered. The City recommends only speed limit enforcement, in spite of the fact that there no posted speed limits on Sterling.

This leaves residents near Sterling with a couple of options: request regular police presence on this street (an unlikely use of police resources) or initiate and fund a speed table project as a neighborhood.

Donnell lays out the process as explained to him by City officials:

  • Enlist neighborhood association support for the project, specifically financial support.
  • Petition the City to have speed tables installed – this would need resident buy-in
  • Get a work permit of the City (including approval from emergency services)
  • Hire a city-approved contractor to construct speed tables

After hearing Donnell’s concerns, the City of Tampa will be conducting a two-week traffic study of Sterling Ave. between Bay to Bay and El Prado sometime in the next two months.

This section of Sterling lacks any traffic calming measures. People rarely park on Sterling and the paving is smooth. Not only are there zero stop signs for this half-mile stretch, there are not even any crosswalks to guide students walking or biking to Roosevelt Elementary, Plant High School, or middle school bus stops or to help people reach Corona Park, popular especially with young children.

With Tampa ranking as one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the United States, with a rise in the number of children in this neighborhood using Sterling Avenue to access public schools and a public park, with data clearly demonstrating the link between speed and car crash incidents, it is time to take a closer look at the kind of traffic calming measures the City of Tampa employs in our neighborhoods.

Make speed tables, proven-effective internationally and locally, part of the solution. 

Check out the recent WFLA story about Sterling Avenue speeders.