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Overpass plan ties city park to trail

A Largo official says linking Central Park to the Pinellas Trail will help downtown redevelopment efforts.

The city wants to build a $1.9-million pedestrian and bicycle overpass connecting Largo Central Park with the Pinellas Trail, hoping the addition will bring more people downtown.

If officials get their wish, the project would be built sometime in the 2003-2004 fiscal year. The county would chip in half the total cost, $965,000, and the city would use local sales tax and other city revenue to match that amount.

Community Development Director Ric Goss is pushing the project because it would boost pedestrian and bicycle traffic through downtown Largo, furthering redevelopment efforts intended to draw people to the city, he said.

"I think it would enhance what's happening downtown," Goss said. "You've just got another mode of transportation for people to come by."

The overpass, measuring 20 feet wide and 700 feet long, would straddle Seminole Boulevard, connecting the west side of the park to a new extension of the Pinellas Trail.

Largo believes it can tap into the county's air-quality fund to help pay for the overpass. The thinking is that the overpass would decrease the number of drivers in Largo because more would ride their bicycles, so Largo should be entitled to almost $1-million in air-quality funds.

Largo's overpass idea will compete against 11 other projects that total $19.1-million, said Sarah Ward, county transportation planning administrator.

The county, though, expects to get only $3-million to $5-million from the federal government this year to be used for air-quality projects.

"I'd say the Largo project has as good a chance as any," Ward said of the city's application.

If the overpass is approved, Largo will extend the Pinellas Trail on the city's west side eastward along Washington Avenue until it intersects Clearwater-Largo Road. At that point, the trail would jog north to Cleveland Avenue and continue east to Seminole Boulevard where the overpass would be constructed.

The city has budgeted $100,000 for signs and other minor changes needed to create a trail extension that would lead to the park, but did not include an overpass. The extension would wind along residential and brick streets where traffic is minimal. There would be no need for an extra lane to accommodate trail users, Goss said.

The city's funding would be spent on signs directing bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as some other minor enhancements.

If the county does not fund the overpass project, Largo would still extend the trail to Central Park.

However, the city would use a different route, so that people could cross Seminole Boulevard safely, Goss said.

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