Get ready for a safer—and steeper — ride.
The U.S. 301 Bicycle Pedestrian Trail is complete, allowing for riders to safely navigate through one of east Pasco’s busiest commercial corridors connecting Zephyrhills and Dade City.
The 4.5-mile, 10-foot wide trail — built within the existing road right-of-way on the west side of U.S. 301 — extends from Kossik Road to Dade City Avenue.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) constructed the $2 million trail as part of the larger, $12.5 million U.S. 301 resurfacing project. Construction lasted about 12 months, officials said.
Jim Edwards, Pasco County Transportation planning manager, said the 4.5-mile extension was a difficult undertaking, due to the sharp, rolling hills along U.S. 301.
“This terrain doesn’t make it any easier to construct this particular project,” Edwards said, during a grand opening ceremony on Oct. 27. “ It was challenging, and also a bit more costly than I think it was originally anticipated…”
The multi-use trail was a collaborative effort among several local regional and state agencies, including FDOT, Pasco County MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization), the cities of Zephyrhills and Dade City, and the Dade City and Zephyrhills Chambers of Commerce.
The 4.5-mile segment is a connector to a larger trail network planned for the U.S. 301 corridor that will eventually extend from north of Dade City to the Hillsborough County line south of Zephyrhills.
“It’s part of something bigger,” said Edwards. “We’ll have a connected system all the way down towards USF (University of South Florida), and all the way to the Withlacoochee State Trailhead, so this is an element of that — a 4.5-mile element of it.”
The Pasco MPO is currently determining options for extending the trail south of Kossik Road into downtown Zephyrhills. The northern extension of the existing Hardy Trail — from Church Avenue to Lock Street in Dade City — is programmed for construction in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
“You’ve got to start somewhere, and this is what this trail basically does,” Edwards said. “It provides safety, health benefits, economic benefits, impacts tourism, and recreation. As you amenitize these trails, they practically become linear parks…and they really become more heavily used as time goes by.”
Kathryn Starkey, Pasco Board of County Commissioners chairwoman, one of the key advocates for the multi-use extension, said she expects the trail to be a “very popular” attraction.
“I know a lot of people are going to come over and use this, and bring economic benefit to the communities here along the trail,” Starkey said.
She added: “Pasco County is going to be the county in the state that’s known for its trails.”
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez echoed similar statements, calling the trail’s completion a “celebration of vibrancy.”
“This is too cool. This makes us special in Pasco County,” Hernandez said. “This is just a piece of a puzzle that’s so important to Dade City and Zephyrhills, and we just have to continue to put this puzzle together.”
“I think it’s a great asset to our cities — it enhances our cities and our communities,” Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield said.
The trail’s ongoing maintenance costs will shift from FDOT to Pasco County and its cities, officials said.
For more information about transportation planning in Pasco County, visit the MPO website, PascoCountyFl.net.
Published November 2, 2016