Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pedestrian bridge across U.S. 19 will be part of Progress Energy Trail

CLEARWATER

Tens of thousands of drivers speed past it every day on U.S. 19, many of them glancing up and wondering, "What the heck is that thing?" • The structure that's being built just south of Enterprise Road looks like it'll be some kind of bridge, although it's not nearly big enough to be one of the huge traffic overpasses that have been constructed along U.S. 19 in recent years. • Instead, it will be a pedestrian bridge and an important link in what will someday be a 70-mile bicycle trail looping all the way around Pinellas County.

For a few months after it's finished, though, it will temporarily be a sort of Bridge to Nowhere until the next segment of the bike trail is completed and hooks up to it.

"You certainly don't want it to be an overpass to nowhere," said County Commissioner Karen Seel, "so I'm pushing to get the trail done as soon as possible."

The pedestrian overpass will become part of the Progress Energy Trail, which will follow a lengthy power line corridor that cuts north-and-south through Clearwater and crosses U.S. 19 near Enterprise.

When this 20-mile trail is eventually finished, it will link up with the popular Pinellas Trail to circle the entire county.

"The Pinellas Trail serves western Pinellas County, and this trail will serve people in the eastern part of the county," said county planner Susan Miller. "It will help people get around without cars. It's going to connect all kinds of destinations — residential, retail, schools, employment."

Timing is everything

The Progress Energy Trail's wide asphalt path is being constructed in five stages. The first leg, completed last year, stretches about 21/2 miles from Belleair Road up to Bright House Networks Field.

The next segment, to be constructed next year, will stretch another 21/2 miles from the baseball park north to the U.S. 19 pedestrian bridge, which should be finished later this year.

Why is one being done before the other? Chalk it up to a fluke of scheduling.

The Florida Department of Transportation is in charge of the $4 million bridge, and this is where the project landed on its work schedule. Because of dropping construction costs, building a bridge right now is a lot cheaper than it was a few years ago.

"This is a good time to be doing the work," Seel said. "At one point, the cost had ballooned to $7 million. The timing is saving some money."

At the same time, Progress Energy is in charge of constructing the trail along its power line easement. It's building the bike path for the county, which is paying for it with Penny for Pinellas sales taxes.

A consultant is designing the trail's next section and will shepherd it though a permitting process. Progress Energy should advertise for construction bids by the end of the year, and the work should take about six months, said Peter Yauch, the county's director of public works and transportation.

In the interim, the bridge will connect to sidewalks on both sides of U.S. 19 and function as a pedestrian overpass.

"It's desirable to put the overpass in first," said Pinellas planning director Brian Smith.

If the bike trail was finished before the bridge, then bicyclists would be trying to cross busy U.S. 19.

"The whole point of the Pinellas Trail system in the first place is to have a safe place to travel by bike," said Smith, who added that most trips on the Pinellas Trail aren't for recreation but instead are for purposes like shopping, work or school.

The big loop

In the future, the Progress Energy Trail will stretch farther north and south. The goal is to have it done in a decade, although those plans aren't funded yet.

Running south from Belleair Road, the trail will cross U.S. 19 again, pass underneath Ulmerton Road, and link up with the Pinellas Trail system around Weedon Island in St. Petersburg.

Heading north, it will follow the power line corridor to connect with a trail running alongside East Lake Road, which will link to a Pinellas Trail extension along Keystone Road.

In Clearwater, the trail already connects to the Ream Wilson East-West Trail, which will one day stretch from the beach to Tampa Bay, Clearwater officials say. Much of that trail will eventually run alongside Druid Road, said Felicia Leonard, who oversees Clearwater's bicycle and pedestrian program.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4160.

Pedestrian bridge across U.S. 19 will be part of Progress Energy Trail 02/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 14, 2009 2:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: Warm, humid weekend ahead of big cool-down for Tampa Bay

    Weather

    The weekend kicks off warm and dry on Friday across Tampa Bay with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 80s.

  2. U.S.-backed Syrian force declares victory over Islamic State in Raqqa

    World

    BEIRUT — A U.S.-backed Syrian force declared victory over the Islamic State group in its former "capital" of Raqqa on Friday, declaring the northern Syrian city free of any extremist presence.

    This Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 frame grab made from drone video shows damaged buildings in Raqqa, Syria two days after Syrian Democratic Forces said that military operations to oust the Islamic State group have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida education news: Lawsuits, lawyers, school board pay and more

    Blogs

    IN COURT: A former Hillsborough County school district top administrator sues the School Board and its chief of staff, alleging board member corruption and …

    Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes is the subject of several allegations in a former employee's scathing lawsuit.
  4. Clearwater eyes hiring new downtown director within two months

    CLEARWATER — Now that the city director tasked with revitalizing downtown has resigned after his arrest on a battery charge during Oktoberfest, City Manager Bill Horne said the goal is to not leave the position vacant long.

    Clearwater Assistant City Manager  Micah Maxwell will oversee downtown until the city hires a replacement for Seth Taylor.
  5. Tampa Bay's Top 100 Workplaces deadline extended to Nov. 17

    Business

    Think you work at one of the best places in Tampa Bay? You've got a little more time to make a pitch.

    Penny Hoarder and Gregory, Sharer & Stuart were among those at an event in Tampa last May honoring winners of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces awards. Nominations are now open for this year.  
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]