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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Inside the Florida budget: $50 million for bike trail marketed on shaky math

Tampa Bay Times staff writer John Woodrow Cox has a must-read story the day after the Florida Legislature adjourned. A line-item in the budget has shaky math behind it. An excerpt:

On Page 256 of the state budget, between references to Medicaid services and transportation consultants, is a short paragraph describing "The Coast-to-Coast Connector."

The connector is a planned bike trail that would run across Central Florida, linking St. Petersburg to Titusville. The state would build 72 miles of new trail to connect to 200 miles that will already exist.

The price tag: $50 million.

But the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation — a nonprofit that for 18 months traveled Florida promoting the plan on the state's behalf — produced an analysis of the connector that made a pointed assertion about its potential: "With a one-time investment of $42 million to complete the Coast-to-Coast Connector, Central Florida will realize an annual economic benefit of $120 million."

The words are underlined in bold type. They helped convince lawmakers that this was a worthy project.

The report, however, offers only a vague, convoluted justification for the figure. When confronted, the men responsible for the study — who didn't agree on what the numbers meant — provided explanations that raised more questions.

[Last modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 4:03pm]

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