Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A sidewalk to nowhere mayfind a destination

Ray Healey, 75, who lives in the Frontier Campground and Mobile Home Park on State Road 50 is the rare pedestrian as he takes his 3-mile daily walk on Wednesday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Ray Healey, 75, who lives in the Frontier Campground and Mobile Home Park on State Road 50 is the rare pedestrian as he takes his 3-mile daily walk on Wednesday.

This is not often the case, but I know something that hardly anybody else does.

That's right. I'm a genuine expert on one particular subject in this county: the 3.8-mile stretch of sidewalk flanking State Road 50 between the Tampa Bay Times office and the Hess Express on the west edge of Brooksville.

I can be sure that few people have up-close, firsthand knowledge of this slab of concrete because just about every time I drive by, it's deserted.

I do see an occasional mountain bike rider, and Times photographer Octavio Jones managed to find a snowbird from a nearby mobile home park out for a stroll last week.

But I would bet that very few people have done what I did Tuesday evening — walk the entire stretch.

I did this during rush hour. The weather was perfect. The surface of the brand-new sidewalk is, of course, absolutely smooth.

All that's preventing folks from using this path — and on my walk I didn't see a soul, not on a bike or on foot, not on either side of the highway — is the simple fact that there is no place to go.

Not conveniently. Not by walking.

And as much as I'd like to claim unique knowledge of this fact, other people have noticed it, too.

For a while it seemed as if every other visitor to our office complained that these sidewalks were a complete waste of money.

I wouldn't go that far.

This is the Tampa Bay area, after all, one of the most lethal places in the country to walk or ride a bike.

Several years ago, the regional office of the state Department of Transportation started building sidewalks and marking bike lanes for every highway it resurfaced in urban areas. It was a wise move, one that will pay off in the future, as growth fills in empty spaces with potential sidewalk users.

Also, sidewalks are cheap, at least compared to roads. The nearly completed improvement of SR 50 in front of our office is just a resurfacing, not a widening. Yet the price of the sidewalks, $381,000, made up less than 10 percent of the job's total cost, $4.2 million.

Still, for this stretch of road and a few others in similarly empty parts of the county, sidewalks just don't seem to fit.

I walked past grazing cattle in wide-open pastures. I saw no real job centers other than Brooksville Regional Hospital, and it would take another hike just to get down its driveway. The only two real stores available on the north side of the road were the Hess and a RaceTrac, a blister-raising 2.8 miles apart.

Bikes are better for those kinds of distances, and we would have been better served with an asphalt bike path rather than a sidewalk on the south side of the highway.

The DOT looked into this and decided it wasn't feasible because of the roadside slopes, a spokeswoman told me. Okay, but I bet if the County Commission and residents had pushed the issue, the department could have found a way to get it done — and for not much more money than building a concrete sidewalk.

I'm not the only one who can picture a bike path there.

A group called the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation has drawn up a map showing how existing bike paths could be linked to form the Coast-to-Coast Connector between St. Petersburg and Titusville.

The Suncoast Trail, along the Suncoast Parkway, is part of this connector. So is the proposed Good Neighbor Trail, which will lead from Brooksville to the Withlacoochee State Trail.

And the section between those two trails, the one with the brand new sidewalks?

On the foundation's map, it's a red, dotted line labeled "Good Neighbor Gap."

Still not convinced? When the DOT started improving SR 44 in Citrus County last year, residents bombarded county commissioners with calls about the waste of building sidewalks on either side of the highway, most of which skirts the Withlacoochee State Forest.

After work had begun — after, in fact, a contractor had put 19 miles of sidewalk on one side of the highway — the commission convinced the DOT to stop the project and to build a bike path rather than a sidewalk on the other side of the road.

"Were trying to capitalize on the assets we have, the state forest and the conservation land, and to offer recreation activities that highlight those assets," said commission Chairman Joe Meek.

Long term, it's good for business, said Meek, a home builder.

Listen to him. Considering what he helped get done in his county, he's the real expert.

A sidewalk to nowhere mayfind a destination 03/23/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 23, 2013 2:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  2. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  3. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  4. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  5. Man injured when small helicopter crashes into Odessa home

    Accidents

    ODESSA — A small manned helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County on Monday, injuring a pilot, officials said.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]