Bike trail would connect Florida's coasts - FOX 13 News

Bike trail would connect Florida's coasts

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It's exactly what many cyclists have been waiting for-- a continuous biking and walking trail stretching from one coast of Florida to the other.

"It's the freedom of being able to go wherever you want to go on a bike. You're not really restricted." said James Gaetano of Trek in South Tampa.

And soon that freedom may take them further than ever in Florida.

The so-called "Coast to Coast Connector" would run from St. Pete to Titusville, connecting more than a dozen existing trails, starting with the Pinellas trail.

The finished trail would be 275 miles – the longest in the state.

"Riding on the road is not really a safe option, and with the trails, I can take my 5-year-old, and she can ride with me, and we can take a family ride as slow or fast as we want," cyclist Christy McKella said.

Lawmakers want to spend $50 million to connect the trails over the next five years.

It's a lot of money, but supporters say it's worth it.

"The return on investment is definitely there. There are projections that range from 3-to-1 return. upward to a 9-to-1 return,"" said Ken Bryan of Rails to Trails Conservancy.

A study of bike trails in Orange County show they pumped more than $42 million into the local economy there.

And many point to the Pinellas trail.

Supporters say the number of businesses in downtown Dunedin has jumped.

Occupancy grew from 30 to 100 percent since the trail cut through the city's main street.

"I'm on my bike, on the rails to trails system going through towns that I would never ever touch in the car," Gaetano said. "We stop. We have a picnic. We get something to eat. We have our money with us. We spend money wherever we go. With the trail being connected, it's our own roadway. It's safe."

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