Pinellas denied federal grant funding (again) to complete Pinellas Trail loop
Bad news for the long-awaited project to transform the 47-mile Pinellas Trail into a 75-mile loop.
Pinellas County learned late last week that it will not receive a $19.1 million federal grant to connect the trail from its current terminus at John Chesnut Park in East Lake to the San Martin Bridge near Weedon Island in St. Petersburg.
The news doused the relatively high hopes of county officials and trail boosters who thought the county had a good chance this time around. It was the fourth time the county has applied for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant.
The program is meant to support difficult-to-finance projects with significant impacts that at least cover a metropolitan area. Pinellas pitched the trail project as a way not just to bring recreational opportunities to the east side of the county and give people a safe way to get to work and school. Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation staff deemed the Pinellas Trail project "highly recommended."
Had the grant funding come through this time, the $31-million extension project would have been on track to be completed by 2020, the trail's 30th anniversary. The county has about $12 million to use as matching funds.
"We don't have another source for the $19 million," said Mary Scott Hardwick, the county's intergovernmental liaison. "At this point we have to evaluate it to see if we want to try and apply again or look somewhere else."
The rejection did not come with a reason, but Hardwick said the county has asked for a debriefing with DOT officials.
The project would be completed in four phases: Enterprise Road to Bright House Field in Clearwater; Chesnut Park to Enterprise Road; Belleair Road to Ulmerton Road; and Ulmerton to the San Martin Bridge. A segment from Drew Street to Belleair Road has already been built and another segment known as the Duke Energy Trail, from Belleair Road to Enterprise Road, is under construction.
One of St. Petersburg's City Trails lines runs along 1st Street from the San Martin Bridge to downtown.
For more details on the county's vision to complete the trail loop, check out this page dedicated to the project.