Move over I-4, here comes the new Central Florida corridor

in Uncategorized by

Budget writers in the House and Senate agreed Saturday to build a $50 million bike trail that would link together sections of trail between Saint Petersburg and Titusville — a project prioritized by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with the goal of providing “a safe and continuous multiuse trail from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic through Central Florida.”

As reported by the News Service of Florida and here, the “Coast to Coast Connector” project is expected to take five years to complete, and would cover an estimated 275 miles from St. Petersburg to Titusville, of which about 200 miles is already developed and open to the public.

The proposed corridor includes two of Florida’s most popular trails, the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail and the West Orange Trail, which of fuel economic activity in Dunedin and Winter Garden, according to DEP; and will incorporate significant portions of the 51 mile East Central Regional Rail Trail, which is being developed as the longest single such corridor acquired by the state.

Budget agreements would allocate $10 million annually for five years — just greater than the estimated cost of $42 million to close gaps in the corridor — with funds coming from the State Transportation Trust Fund.

But according to DEP, these funds will see a strong return on investment.

For example, three Central Florida trails were estimated to support $42 million of economic impact and 516 jobs in 2010 — based on a report by the East Central Florida RPC; and, according to a 2004 study by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the repeated annual economic impact of cyclists has been estimated at nine times the cost to build such corridors.

These estimates reflect data corroborated  by the National Association of Homebuyers (2008) that claim trails are the number one community amenity sought by American home buyers,  and by Visit Florida (2012) that estimates three-quarters of Florida’s 87 million annual visitors participate in nature-based activities.

Still seem like a stretch? Not to the Dunedin Economic Development Director, who reported to DEP that private business occupancy rates increased in downtown Dunedin from 30 percent to nearly 100 percent following the opening of the Pinellas Trail.

The following multi-use trails will be lined together: Fred Marquis Pinellas, Starkey, Suncoast, Good Neighbor, Withlacoochee State, Gen. James A. Van Fleet State, South Lake, West Orange, Clarcona-Ocoee, Pine Hills, Seminole-Wekiva, Rinehart Trail, Spring to Spring, and East Central Regional.