Courtney Campbell Trail: A new way to cross Tampa Bay, trail opens soon, carries on role of Friendship TrailBridge

12:36 PM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
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Above Tampa Bay -- A new way to cross Tampa Bay is just about to open.

Following in the footsteps of the beloved Friendship TrailBridge, the new Courtney Campbell Trail will connect Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.

10 News got early access to the bridge and the first phase of the trail as they enter the last stages of construction.

In about eight weeks, come October, you will be able to take in the trail and its amazing views for yourself.

The most sweeping vistas come from a brand new bridge, built just for walkers, joggers, and bicyclists along the southern edge of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, crossing Tampa Bay.

It's the first project like it built in Florida.

All new paved paths, tables, and more will join the centerpiece of the project, the bridge that rises 45 feet above Tampa Bay.

The section set to open in October will run from Tampa's Ben T. Davis Beach and the Rocky Point area west to the Pinellas County Line.

Next year, the rest of the new trail will open, connecting Tampa to Clearwater and trails that stretch all the way to places like Tarpon Springs, St. Petersburg, and Gulfport.

The whole nine-mile trail and bridge project will cost around $20 million according to spokeswoman Kris Carson of the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency paying for most of it.

That large investment leads to the logical questions of: Will people use this? And why spend this money?

"We've had a lot of callers, especially with the Friendship TrailBridge closed; people are very excited to use this," Carson said. "It's not open yet, but every day our construction crews are turning people away, telling them, 'It's not open yet, a couple more weeks it will be done.'

"Unfortunately, in the Tampa Bay area and Florida, we're double the national average in pedestrian fatalities -- not a number we're proud of. We're trying to combat that with building more pedestrian and bicyclist facilities all around the state."

The money the state is spending on this has to be spent on pedestrian and bike projects. It was set aside that way by Congress so it can't be used on other, more traditional road work.

Whether you'll be able to fish from the new bridge still hasn't been decided. Carson says the cities and counties involved will make that determination.

When it's completed, the Courtney Campbell Trail will be the first bridge and path to link Hillsborough and Pinellas counties since the Friendship TrailBridge next to the Gandy Bridge closed due to safety concerns five years ago.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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