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‘Mini-skyway’ span to beach

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The bridge for foot and bike traffic across a small channel is part of Clearwater’s growing network of public trails.

This rendering shows how the $5.2-million bridge for cyclists and pedestrians will look with its blue glow at night. Construction of the bridge is to start in October south of the new elevated Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge to Clearwater Beach. It will function as an emergency roadway for police cars and ambulances.

By CHRISTINA K. COSDON Published August 1, 2005 CLEARWATER – Imagine walking or biking or inline skating over a few hundred feet of water on a cable-supported bridge that looks much like the Sunshine Skyway. And is illuminated at night. With blue lights, no less. That’s what Clearwater plans to build at the western end of the Memorial Causeway. A “mini-skyway” will be 300 feet long and bridge the small channel between the end of the causeway and Clearwater Beach. The $5.2-million bridge will be part of Clearwater’s growing network of public trails. The new elevated Memorial Causeway Bridge, scheduled to open in late August, will have eastbound and westbound walkways and bikepaths. As the tall bridge descends to meet the ground on the causeway, the trail then will run at street level west to the mini-skyway, which links to the beach. More than 5,000 bicycles and pedestrians a week cross the existing, small bridge at the end of the causeway, Clearwater spokeswoman Joelle Wiley Castelli said. Built for vehicular traffic, the bridge has two sidewalks 5 feet wide but no safety railing or guardrails. Although the new bridge will mainly be for pedestrians and bicyclists, it will be strong enough to be used by police and ambulances, but not fire trucks, Castelli said. Like the Sunshine Skyway, the new bridge will be cable-stayed. Cables stretching diagonally from an A-shaped, weight-bearing tower will support the bridge. The mini-skyway will have an approach ramp on the east side 122 feet long, said Mahshid Arasteh, Clearwater public works administrator. The new bridge, 15 feet wide, will have a boat clearance of 13 feet, 6 inches. But fishing won’t be allowed. Construction is to begin in October, and completion is scheduled for early 2007. The bridge will be the westernmost portion of the city’s east-west trail, parts of which are under construction. The east-west trail is 5 miles long, much of it in east Clearwater. An important segment, the overpass over McMullen-Booth Road, is to be finished in early September. A grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 22, Castelli said. The $3.5-million overpass connects Del Oro Park on Old Tampa Bay to Eddie C. Moore recreation complex and the portion of the trail continuing east to the Long Center. “The trail is 11 feet wide in most places and takes you through lush wooded areas,” said Art Kader, assistant director of Clearwater Parks and Recreation. “It’s a wonderful greenway belt. It’s literally like you’re not in an urban area.” Eventually, Clearwater plans a trail extending from Del Oro Park on Old Tampa Bay to Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico – 11 miles. Another trail, the north-south Progress Energy Trail, will connect with the east-west trail at Old Coachman Road and extend south to Druid Road. Ultimately, the Progress Energy Trail will be about 20.6 miles, from Chesnut Park in East Lake to Weedon Island in St. Petersburg. The Druid Road trail will extend west 4 miles on city right-of-way, running from the Progress Energy Trail to the Pinellas Trail near downtown with access to the new Memorial Causeway Bridge and the new mini-skyway. The Druid Trail is being designed now. Construction could begin this spring.
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