Trail users no longer have to look both ways
By JON WILSON
© St. Petersburg Times,
ST. PETERSBURG -- Pinellas Trail users negotiating a heavy-traffic neighborhood now can leave their worries below.
A trail overpass across Central Avenue, First Avenue S and Pasadena Avenue opened earlier this month, making life easier and safer for walkers, runners, skaters and cyclists.
For years, users have had to get off the trail and cover a few blocks exposed to traffic. No vehicles are allowed on the trail, which has made the 35-mile path between Gibbs High School and Tarpon Springs a favorite among pedal-power people, inline buffs and footsloggers.
The new overpass is the latest of several spans built along the trail to help users beat the traffic or get across stretches of water. Recent ones have included the Park Street flyover and a bridge over Cross Bayou.
Scheduled next is a span over 38th Avenue N. The project could open for construction bids during the next 12 months, said trail supervisor Jerry Cumings.
Financed with federal money, the new $2.29-million overpass is 1,500 feet long and 27 feet high, said Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marion Pscion.
It actually opened a few weeks sooner than projected. An early September opening had been expected, but favorable weather helped crews finish ahead of schedule.
People seem to like the bridge, Cumings said.
"I've been out there a couple of times and it's been positive," he said. "People like it best because the (inclines) are more gradual.
"Plus, we don't have that icky detour anymore," Cumings said.
The overpass should be especially helpful during sunny summer Sundays.
"It'll be a lot safer, especially Pasadena," Cumings said. "I used to hate going out on Sundays. You would get caught in traffic going to the beach, or coming back."
The trail, originally a railway bed, opened its first segment in 1990.
Future plans call for extending it around Pinellas County's northern boundary and connecting to a 4-mile segment of the trail east of Lake Tarpon. Another planned link would extend the trail from John Chestnut Park to the Florida Power easement near Tampa Road.
Also on the boards is a 20.6-mile segment to beeline south, then turn east to Weedon Island.
There is no certain timetable for those projects.
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