There’s been a lot said about the $135 million Suncoast Parkway extension into Citrus County, but not much chatter about the trail that will run parallel to the road.
Bicyclists, walkers and nature enthusiasts can be assured that the 13-mile trail that will extend from U.S. 98 to State Road 44 is running on schedule.
“It should open in conjunction with the road (in summer 2022),” said Steve Diez, executive director of the Hernando-Citrus Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
The pillars are already in place where a bicycle-pedestrian overpass bridge will span U.S. 98. Consultation with bicyclists in the design stage of the project resulted in the decision to not have the bridge make a 90-degree turn as it winds to the top, making the traverse across the roadway easier on riders and pedestrians.
The trail will be on the west side of the toll road. The existing trailhead at U.S. 98 will be upgraded with restrooms. There will also be trailheads and parking areas at the West Cardinal Street and State Road 44 interchanges.
The overpass bridge will have two main spans totaling 260 feet, according to Orlando-based DRMP, the engineering firm on the project. At the south end of the main spans, pedestrians will use a 600-foot switchback ramp to reach the trail below the bridge.
Safety upgrades for the bridge include aluminum railing along the switchbacks and a fenced enclosure over U.S. 98.
Opened in 2001, the Suncoast Trail starts in northern Hillsborough County and heads north through Pasco and Hernando counties. The 42-mile trail is a favorite with bikers and walkers because it winds through scenic suburban, agricultural and natural areas. There are rest areas along the trail.