Bicyclists cruising along the Pinellas Trail will one day be able to coast all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. A new bicycle path being planned will provide the first link between the Pinellas Trail and the county's barrier islands and beaches. The City Council approved a $153,000 contract to design the trail, which will take people over the Treasure Island Causeway to the beach.
The Florida Department of Transportation is paying for the $1 million project, which is slated to open in 2015.
The bicycling community is buzzing.
"We are extremely excited about this," said Tony Witts, president of the 450-member St. Petersburg Bicycle Club.
The much-anticipated path will also protect riders who now venture off the Pinellas Trail to the beaches, Witts said, adding: "We care about anything that promotes safety."
City officials expected hordes of riders, runners and walkers to use the new path.
"It will provide residents of St. Petersburg and lower Pinellas County access to our beaches," said Joe Kubicki, the city's director of transportation and parking management.
He stressed that the addition will protect riders from the roadway and will benefit recreational cyclists, not just professionals.
The Pinellas Trail currently extends from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. The multi-use trail sits on an abandoned railroad corridor and is used for cycling, jogging, walking and skating. Pinellas County Parks & Conservation Resources maintains the trail's 47 miles.
The proposed route would connect the existing Pinellas Trail to Second Avenue N, near 72nd Street.
Pavement markings and signs will direct riders through several more streets before reaching Causeway Boulevard N and the Treasure Island Causeway.
After hitting Treasure Island, cyclists could travel on the island's bike trail north toward John's Pass and connect to the city's new beach trail.
St. Petersburg will pay for the $153,000 design contract, but will eventually be reimbursed by the state.
With part of the proposed trail running through the Causeway Isles neighborhood, the city will hold meetings with residents to inform them of changes, Kubicki said.
More paths are coming.
A path will connect the trail to the southern beaches by going across the Pinellas Bayway bridge. That work is expected to be completed in two years.
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow @MarkPuente on Twitter.