TREASURE ISLAND — By early summer, bicycle enthusiasts will be able to safely pedal through the city's downtown to connect to a nearly mile-long pedestrian/bicycle trail along the beachfront.
Eventually the new trail may enable bikers to safely connect to both St. Petersburg's and Pinellas County's system of bicycle trails.
Planning for the beach bike trail began several years ago. Last week, the city issued a formal request for bids from contractors.
City officials hope construction could begin by late February or early March and be completed by summer.
"The commission really wants this to happen," said public works director Jim Murphy on Tuesday. "This will be a perfect connector to the beach trail."
The city has budgeted about $90,000 for the beach trail project, which will be combined with other work to redesign and resurface several roadways and intersections along the new bike path.
Among the changes affecting motor traffic will be a westbound turn lane on the Treasure Island Causeway at 104th Avenue and a right turn lane on 104th onto the causeway.
The total cost could exceed $200,000. Murphy said any shortfall will be taken from about $400,000 in funds previously set aside for street repaving.
Bids are due to the city by Jan. 11. Murphy said the commission will then have to vote at two subsequent meetings before the project can be awarded. Construction is expected to take about 90 days.
The 10-foot wide bike trail will begin at 104th and Gulf Boulevard, directly across from the city's Gulf Front Park at 10400 Gulf Blvd.
It will then wend its way along the north side of 104th Avenue, through Community Park, and toward 106th Avenue where it will spit into two 4-foot lanes.
The narrower bike lanes on the north and south sides of 104th Avenue will again merge on the south side of the street at the intersection of 104th, 107th (Treasure Island Causeway) and 108th Avenues next to the St. James condominium.
After crossing a small bridge via existing pedestrian/bike paths, the trail will then utilize access roads paralleling the Treasure Island Causeway and connect bikers to further access roads to reach Park Street in St. Petersburg.
That city is also considering expanding its bike trail system to directly connect bikers there to Treasure Island.
During a workshop in June, St. Petersburg's bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, Cheryl Stacks, told the Treasure Island commission that her city was looking for a grant that would pay for connecting its trail to the Pinellas County bike trail, as well as to Treasure Island's trail.
Since then, St. Petersburg has received $154,000 in design funding through the Florida Department of Transportation and the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
During the coming year, St. Petersburg officials will meet with neighborhood groups to determine the final design that would connect St. Petersburg's trail that currently ends at 66th Street to the planned Pinellas Trail connector to Treasure Island.
That project is expected to be bid after July 2014, according to St. Petersburg's director of transportation, Joe Kubicki.
"We are really excited about this," Kubicki said Tuesday. "We have been working since 2002 to connect our bike trail to Treasure Island."