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Dr. Delay: Bridges for bike trail cause confusion

The Doc has received a lot of mail the past two years regarding the ongoing CityTrails project. We covered the latest details a year ago, when readers were clamoring for information about the work to widen sidewalks on First Street between 30th and 47th avenues N. It's part of St. Petersburg's CityTrails Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, adopted by the City Council in 2003.

The plan was to construct the North Bay Trail along First Street from 30th Avenue N to 78th Avenue N in two phases, with the section reaching to 54th Avenue N to be completed late last spring. A second section, to Rio Vista Park, was scheduled to wrap up sometime last fall.

But work is continuing and some folks, including reader Harold Holderith, have grown weary of the construction. He contacted the Doc last week to ask about a pedestrian bridge being built at First Street and 54th Avenue N. Holderith wrote: "They're now installing the third bridge (in the last 18 months). Will this be the final or are they still experimenting, with our tax dollars?"

The bridge Holderith references connects the Rio Vista Trail at First Street and 78th Avenue N to the Pinellas Trail Downtown Extension. The cost of the 1.5-mile section of concrete trail with pedestrian bridges at 54th and 34th avenues is $933,784, and is paid for with federal stimulus dollars.

Challenges were presented, city engineers told us, by the presence of overhead power lines. Plans to construct a steel truss from the street curb turned out to be impossible because it created line-of-sight problems for drivers entering First Street from 55th Avenue N.

Thomas Gibson, the city's engineering director, said Progress Energy moved one power pole. In place of the originally planned steel truss bridge, a lower wood pile bridge with concrete deck has been designed, which will eliminate the sight distance issues.

"The construction of the alternative bridge will require pile driving under the Progress Energy overhead lines. Progress Energy will temporarily remove electric distribution lines directly over the proposed bridge for one week to allow pile driving. This work is scheduled for the week of March 30," Gibson said.

The work we are currently seeing is construction of the bridge abutments and approach slabs. In addition, Progress Energy will be moving power poles along First Street from 47th to 49th Avenue N, where the trail currently ends. This section will be widened to 12 feet later this year.

Gibson said the steel truss bridge initially meant for the 54th Avenue N canal crossing has been relocated to the Clam Bayou Trail creek crossing near 41st Street and 20th Avenue S. It will replace a steel truss bridge built in 1989 that is reaching the end of its lifespan.

The new Clam Bayou Trail, which is scheduled to be completed sometime this summer, will pass through the Clam Bayou Preserve and connect the Pinellas Trail to the future South Bay Trail, and Bayway and Sunshine Skyway trails. After completion of the North Bay Trail section and Clam Bayou Trail, St. Petersburg will have 34 miles of off-road trails and 75 miles of bike lanes in operation, which is in addition to the Pinellas Trail, Gibson said. Check out the city's website for more information about the project at stpete.org/transportation/citytrails.

Email Dr. Delay at DocDelay@gmail.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Dr. Delay on Twitter @AskDrDelay. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.

Dr. Delay: Bridges for bike trail cause confusion 03/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 5:31am]

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