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Parkway trail nearly ready to roll on

Finishing touches are being put on the 42-mile path threading through Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 23, 2000


ODESSA -- The southern end of the 42-mile Suncoast Parkway Trail may look finished and inviting, but hold onto your bikes and roller skates; it's not quite ready.

"It's a construction area and not safe," said Kim Poulton, spokeswoman for the Florida Turnpike District of the Department of Transportation. "We're discouraging people for their own safety not to be on it."

The paved bike trail is being built in segments, with the northernmost section, seven miles in Hernando County, closest to completion.

Poulton said the agency does not yet have a date on when the trail will be ready but "we're trying to open the bike trail and not wait for the road to open."

The trail will run beside the new toll road from Lutz-Lake Fern Road in Hillsborough County, through Pasco County, ending at U.S. 98 in Hernando County.

The 12-foot wide trail is separated from the roadway except where they join to cross several rivers and wildlife crossings on bridges equipped with protective fencing and other measures.

All local crossroad intersections will have signs and be marked for pedestrian crossings, and State Roads 52 and 54 will have pedestrian crosswalk signals.

The Turnpike District will complete the southern 32 miles of trail, including two trail heads at State roads 54 and 50, by late this year. A pedestrian bridge over State Road 50, and final paving northward to Centralia Road, will be built next year with federal money, and Hernando will complete the northern segment up to U.S. 98.

The Florida Turnpike District agreed to build trail heads in Hernando and Pasco counties. In Hillsborough, the DOT has set aside money for a trail head at Lutz-Lake Fern Road in Hillsborough, however, it must be matched from local sources.

The trail head is expected to cost about $350,000, and aside from giving residents a place to park, it would also have restrooms and picnic areas.

Operation and maintenance of the trail and construction of amenities, including concessions will be the responsibility of each county along the trail.

Ultimately, planners hope the trail will connect to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail in Citrus Park.

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Jackie Ripley can be reached at 226-3468 or ripley@sptimes.com.

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