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Pinellas Trail will go over 38th Avenue N

Planners are trying to figure where to route a detour while building an overpass near Tyrone Boulevard.

By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 23, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- Pinellas Trail users can look forward to one more overpass to help them make it through a tough intersection.

A timetable is in place to build a flyover at the 38th Avenue N trail intersection. There, a commercial center and nearby Tyrone Boulevard send traffic shooting in front of pedestrians, cyclists and skaters, who often find crossing the road to be a tense endeavor.

Though plans are in the works, the overpass won't be up for a while.

The Florida Department of Transportation, the agency managing the project, will take bids about a year from now, officials say. Construction on the estimated $1.7-million overpass, which a federal grant is financing, should start in early 2004.

It will be the last in a series of bridges built to make the southern sections of the 35-mile trail safer.

A bridge over Long and Cross bayous took users off busy Bay Pines Boulevard. And overpasses have been built across Park Street and the Central-First Avenues N and S combination.

"I get excited about going across them," said Manuel Santos, the DOT project manager for the 38th Avenue overpass.

Planners already are trying to figure where to put a detour for users during its construction. The trail cuts through Jungle Terrace Civic Association territory; the detour will affect the neighborhood.

Two or three options are available.

Monday night, association members voted against using 76th Street, which would bring all trail users through the neighborhood.

Another option is filling in a ditch that runs next to the trail and using the space to establish a temporary path parallel to the existing one. A third involves taking the detour down one side of private property just south of 38th, although officials note that route would require getting easements.

Meanwhile, Jungle Terrace residents are struggling with another trail access issue. Playing a role is the ditch that might be filled in to provide a detour.

A chain-link fence runs alongside part of the trail, separating it from the ditch. Years ago, someone removed a fence section to establish an unofficial trail entry point for residents living nearby.

When the county replaced the missing section, someone took it out again.

It became a repetitive process.

Eventually, said trail supervisor Jerry Cumings, "We just left it open."

But a few weeks ago, a resident complained about the open spot, Cumings said. Then the county deepened the ditch, installing turf blocks for erosion control, he said. Crews closed the fence hole for safety's sake.

Then somebody reopened it.

And county workers reclosed it.

It remained closed when Neighborhood Times last checked on Monday.

Jungle Terrace residents discussed the fence Monday night. "We voted unanimously as a neighborhood to keep that thing open," said association president Steve Plice.

Plice said just one person has told him the fence should be sealed.

And Cumings said most people who have contacted him favor keeping the opening.

Michael Frederick, St. Petersburg's neighborhood transportation manager, said he is aware of the situation.

"It's patch the fence, rip it out, patch the fence, rip the fence out," he said. "I steered (Jungle Terrace) to get a neighborhood decision and work with the county once and for all."

Plice said he will contact the County Commission.

In yet another trail episode -- this one apparently unrelated to any of the current issues -- a couple on a bicycle built for two complained earlier this month that golfers were stroking balls at them from the roof of a nearby tall building.

Police were summoned. It remains unclear whether culprits were identified.

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