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Bridge to nowhere waits for trail link
By JON WILSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- Five months after its grand opening, the Pinellas Trail's bridge over Cross Bayou will get you over the water if you're coming from north Pinellas County -- but it won't get you into the trail's St. Petersburg section.
And overpass construction keeps you away from the bridge if you're coming from the St. Petersburg side.
An unbroken Pinellas Trail trip between Tarpon Springs and Gibbs High School must wait until the overpass across Park Street and the Target store parking lot is finished this fall.
That will be done by November or December, said Brian Smith, Pinellas County's planning director.
"That's the latest," he said. "I think we're trying to have it done even before November. And I think that's happening," he said.
It's important that the link be finished by year's end because the county will celebrate the trail's 10-year anniversary in December, Smith said.
The $2-million Park Street flyover, which will allow trail users to negotiate safely the busy lot and street, appears to be well under construction. Pillars that will support the bridge are in place.
Last November, the bridge across the bayou opened with a small celebration. In theory, and at least temporarily, it linked the Bay Pines trail sections with St. Petersburg -- although a few blocks remained to be completed around Target and Park Street on the St. Petersburg side.
Eventually, the overpass construction would have blocked a through trip, anyway.
But the new bridge link lasted less than 24 hours.
It was closed the day after its ribbon-cutting because of a break in a reclaimed water pipe, officials said.
Barricades went up at both ends of the bridge, stopping trail users from getting onto it.
After pipe repairs were made, the northwest end of the bridge was opened. Hikers, joggers, bikers and skaters can now travel nearly a mile past the KOA campground near 95th Street N.
They can see mangrove islands, anglers and motor traffic on adjacent Seminole Bridge serving the busy Tyrone Boulevard-Bay Pines area.
Then they come to a dead end at the bridge's southeast end.
At that point, fences stop anyone from getting close to the overpass construction.
There are no signs to caution users that the bridge leads to a dead end, but officials have received few complaints about the lack of warning, said Jerry Cumings, the county's trail supervisor.
"At first we did, but now everybody pretty well realizes" a cul-de-sac awaits, Cumings said. "So it hasn't been too bad."
On the other side, going north through St. Petersburg, the trail stops at Park Street.
Meanwhile, water pipe repairs continue on a section of the trail near 95th Street. Early this week, orange cones marked a work crew's presence, but the trail was not blocked.
When the Park Street overpass connects the trail, the trail will run about 35 unbroken miles from Gibbs High School to near U.S. 19 east of Tarpon Springs, Cumings said. Future connections to the East Lake area will result in a 47-mile trail.
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