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WIDER SR 50 WILL COME WITH A SIDE OF BICYCLES

The state updates designs with a 12-foot-wide path along 3.7 miles.

The state Department of Transportation sent the county a routine update of its plans to widen State Road 50 last week. But Steve Diez, the county's bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, noticed one detail that didn't seem routine at all.

The state intends to build a 12-foot-wide multiuse path extending the full length of the project, the 3.7 miles from U.S. 19 to just west of Mariner Boulevard.

"We didn't even ask for it,'' Diez said. "It will be a good east-west connector for people who are not comfortable riding on the road.''

He expects the trail will continue east as the road project progresses, eventually connecting with the 42-mile trail that runs alongside the Suncoast Parkway.

The cost of widening the 3.7 miles of SR 50 from four to six lanes will be about $81-million, said Marian Scorza, spokeswoman for the DOT office in Tampa.

The notice informed the county the design of the project is 30 percent complete, with construction scheduled to begin in 2011.

The notice did not say when the new lanes or the bike path would be complete. The 12-foot-wide lane, known by the DOT as a "shared-use path,'' would cost about $1-million.

The preliminary plan for the road has the shared-use path on the south side of the highway and a sidewalk on the north side of the road. The plan also calls for 4-foot-wide marked bike paths on each side of the highway.

During the planning phases of the project, the DOT heard considerable interest from the community and local governments in adding the multiuse path. They asked that it be added to whichever side of the highway would provide the best public use, said Kris Carson, DOT spokeswoman.

Diez and Dennis Dix, the county's transportation planning coordinator, have previously criticized the district for not marking the 5-foot-wide shoulders on its highways as bicycle paths.

District officials said it marks the paths only when they lead to other bike-friendly areas.

Dan DeWitt can be reached at dewitt@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6116.

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