Over the last several weeks, the Good Neighbor Trail connector overpass has been taking shape and is starting to look like an overpass.
The overpass is being constructed at the southwest corner of Cobb Road and 50. It will go over SR 50 just south of the intersection of 50 and Cobb Road and land bikers between the Hardees restaurant and Tractor Supply.
Large steel piles were driven into the ground to provide stability. This was a loud process that could pretty much be heard all throughout the center of Brooksville. Thankfully, this phase is complete, with the piles driven into the ground on both sides of SR 50.
John McShaffrey, Community Outreach Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, District Seven, provided an explanation of the steel piles that have been driven into the ground for the bike overpass. “There is no uniform length for the steel piles for this bridge because piles are driven until they reach capacity. Reaching capacity largely depends on the materials the pile is driven into. The driven pile length for this bridge varies from 18.8 feet to 131.69 feet.”
Mr. McShaffrey then sketched out the process for the overpass construction:
Install rebar, then form and pour concrete for footings.
Install rebar, then form and pour concrete for columns.
Install rebar, then form and pour concrete for caps.
Install the pre-assembled steel bridge over the roadway.”
As of Dec. 13, McShaffrey said, “The contractor has driven all the piles, installed rebar, and formed and poured concrete for all the footings. They are currently building the columns.”
“The installed bridge will have an 18’ – 3” clearance over the roadway surface (road to bottom of the overpass bridge).”
After the overpass, the 12-foot wide trail will head to West Jefferson Street and extend to Tom Varn Park, where it roughly follows Darby Lane through and out of the park.
The trail then heads toward US 41. According to Kris Carson, FDOT District 7 Communications Manager, “The Good Neighbor Trail crossing at US 41 will be at street level (no overpass). There will be striped crosswalks in that area for the trail crossing north-south at US 41 and east-west at Mildred Avenue. The area will be well-marked with fluorescent sign panels to alert drivers to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
The trail will follow 41 (N Broad St) into the city of Brooksville and then go south along South Main Street, then to Russell Street, where the Good Neighbor Trail begins.
The Good Neighbor Trail (roughly 10 miles) connects to the Withlacoochee State Trail. The trails through Brooksville will fill a gap in the broader Coast to Coast connector project. According to FDOT records, the Good Neighbor Trail connector through Brooksville will cost $20 million, and the contractor is SEMA Construction, Inc.
In Nov. 2021, the first leg of filling a gap in the Coast to Coast connector project was completed, creating a 12-foot wide bike trail from the Suncoast Parkway to Cobb Road and 50. According to FDOT, the cost of this phase of the project was $5,526,496 and was completed by Watson Civil Construction, Inc.
The Hernando Sun reached out to Patricia Laird, owner of Crank Works Bicycles in Brooksville, asking for insight on how the trail completion would change the local bike scene.
As far as Interest in bicycling through Brooksville, she explained, “We’ve had quite a few phone calls and emails from people from out of town who are looking for suggestions on the best way to bike through Brooksville. There are a few groups on Facebook specifically for cyclists who are undertaking the “coast to coast” ride, and I see posts regularly from people trying to navigate our specific area (without this trail). With the overall C2C trail getting closer to completion, I’m seeing more and more people riding the route. This trail connection will make traversing this section of the route much safer and will encourage more cyclists to ride the route.”
Laird says that the trail will be important to the economic vitality of the area once complete.“From an economic standpoint, this is an amazing opportunity for Brooksville that the trail is coming through our area. I’m frequently asked for suggestions on where to eat or where to stay by cyclists that are traveling the C2C route. Many stay at our locally owned bed and breakfasts and eat at our local restaurants. This all helps support our local businesses. The reality is that Florida is number one in the nation for bicycle fatalities. Many cyclists are tired of riding dangerous roads and looking for alternatives. That solution has come through either moving to off-road, “gravel,” or riding paved trails.”
Laird concludes, “The timing for this has worked out perfectly. This project was planned almost a decade ago; I was fortunate to be involved then. But outdoor recreation has been in huge demand since the pandemic, so the timing of the trail construction is perfect.”
The FDOT estimates that the 2.2-mile Good Neighbor Trail connector will be complete in Dec. 2025.