Florida coast-to-coast bike trail clears budget hurdle

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Expected to make it on next year’s state budget is $15.5 million for a proposed 250-mile bike/walk trail crossing Central Florida, a favored project of future Senate President Andy Gardiner.

What may not make it through the transportation and economic-development negotiations in the $75 billion spending plan is another big-ticket project—a House plan of $10 million for the Skyrise Miami tower, a 1,000-foot-high waterfront glass and steel construction, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

On Tuesday, the combined House and Senate conference continued to consider more than $12 billion for the Departments of Economic Opportunity, Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, Military Affairs, State Transportation and the Division of Emergency Management.

Gardiner thanked the House for approving the cost-to-coast connector trail, a project vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott last year, when it was presented as a $50 million project.

The funds will be for connecting the various existing pedestrian and bike trails.

“This is an issue that the Senate has felt very, very strongly about the last couple of years,” the Orlando Republican told House members in the first of three public meetings of the budget conference committee. “It means a lot to us, and especially it means a lot to me personally.”

Gardiner saw the connector as a key priority when he assumes the Senate presidency in November, Turner notes, and he is working to make sure the project gets Scott’s endorsement this year.

So far, the projects agreed upon by both the House and Senate include $205,000 for the Historic Fulford Fountain renovation in North Miami Beach; $600,000 for economic development offices in China and Japan, $600,000; $6 million for Space Florida, and $2.5 million for the IMG Academy, a student-athlete training center in Bradenton.

According to Turner, other proposals are $50,000 for the Tampa Bay Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House; $1 million to the Circus Arts Conservatory in Sarasota, a gun training range in Palm Bay gets $1 million; $2.5 million for the Collier County Soft Landing Accelerator; $150,000 to the Miracle League Ballpark in Miami-Dade County and $1 million for the St. Johns River Ferry.

Getting $500,000 each are Department of State historic properties maintenance; the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, Mahaffey Theater improvements in St. Petersburg. The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum will receive $400,000 and $475,000 for the Tallahassee Little Theatre.

Line items agreed upon by the House and Senate: $337 million for aviation development and grants; grants of $139 million for access, economic development and funding programs for seaports; and $366 million for development and grants for rail.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.