Get ready to hit the trail on Manhattan Avenue

By Elisabeth Parker, Times Staff Writer

Published Wednesday, October 7, 2009

INTERBAY — A portion of an 18-mile trail linking Bayshore Boulevard to the Gandy Bridge is on track to be paved by spring.

The 1-mile slice along Manhattan Avenue goes before the City Council for a vote Thursday. Construction costs of $325,621 would come from a federal grant filtered through the Florida Department of Transportation.

Council member John Dingfelder, whose district includes the trail, expects it will pass. If Tampa doesn't put the federal dollars to good use, he says, some other community will.

Spurred by Tampa's dismal reputation for cycling and pedestrian safety, the city planned more than 100 miles of trails, including 36 miles in South Tampa called the South Tampa Greenway.

"We're building the pieces as we get funding, said Laurie Potier-Brown, overseeing the project for the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

The city is now looking for potential land acquisitions to further the trail project and allow people to "traverse safely," said Karen Palus, parks and recreation director. "It's part of having a sustainable city."

Almost 9,000 bicyclists in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties regularly rode to work in 2006, according to the U.S. Census.

The newest segment of the greenway will start along the east side of S Manhattan at Interbay Boulevard. It then goes north to W Iowa Avenue, where it jumps to the west side of the street at a railroad crossing. It ends at Legacy Park Drive, just south of W Tyson Avenue.

Currently, the stretch is a rough, narrow and congested trip on a bike, says Jack Sweeney, 40, of Seminole Heights.

He spends a lot of time cycling in Tampa and typically turns around at the gate to MacDill Air Force Base, after cruising down Bayshore Boulevard. "I would love to continue on," said Sweeney, who hopes to one day travel the completed trail all the way to the Gandy Bridge.

The multiuse asphalt stretch will range from 10 feet to 5 feet in width. It will pass alongside Bobby Hicks Park and Jack Peters Stadium and several bus shelters. One shelter, at Manhattan and Interbay, stands in the trail's path and will be moved.

David Vaughn, Tampa's director of contract administration, expects construction to start after Thanksgiving and be complete in six months.

Construction on the overall South Tampa Greenway started in 2004 with the MacDill Trail at Gadsden Park, a 1.5-mile stretch. So far, 13.5 miles are complete.

Original plans were to link Tampa to St. Petersburg. Despite uncertainties about the fate of the Friendship Trail Bridge, the South Tampa Greenway will still lead to the Tampa side of the bridge, Potier-Brown said.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at (813) 226-3431 or

Council meeting

The City Council will vote on constructing the Manhattan Avenue Trail on Thursday. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. on the third floor of City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd.

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