One of the long range dreams for New Port Richey is to run a Cross Florida bike route through the city. There are alternate routes that bypass the city, but we’ve actually got most pieces in place or planned already to run a route right through New Port Richey, much like the Pinellas Trail goes through towns in Pinellas.
With the exception of a short stretch on Starkey Blvd, you can travel on a bike trail from Citrus or Hillsborough counties to downtown New Port Richey without ever riding on a street. We’ve already got a segment of trail along Marine Parkway. Segments that would connect that trail to the Pinellas Trail are in the planning stages. This route is also the reason that a bike / pedestrian overpass at Marine and US 19 keeps coming up.
The gap we can do something about now would be to tie the Madison Avenue multi-use trail to the Marine Parkway trail. There are several good candidates for a route from Madison to Grand. Several of the east / west streets south of Main are extra wide.
The route section on Grand from the bridge to Marine Parkway is the most challenging part, but it is very much doable. There is enough room to widen the sidewalk into a trail.
For whatever reason, Grand was laid out as a four lane highway from the downtown all the way to the bridge. Looking at the amount of traffic on that stretch of Grand, there is simply no way you can justify four lanes. Several years ago, we actually threw a special event in the outside two lanes. It didn’t impede traffic at all.
With the impending replacement of the Grand Blvd bridge, now is the time to look at taking some of that space and converting into a safe route for bikes and pedestrians. There have been several design exercises showing what Grand might look like between the bridge and the downtown. South of the downtown is actually pretty easy.
The section of Grand in the downtown itself is a bit more complicated. Would it be worth losing the center turn lane to expand the sidewalks on either side, making more space for sidewalk cafes, etc.? I could make a pretty good argument for it. One urban design expert has gone so far as suggesting that we consider removing the stop lights at Main and Grand and replacing them with a four way stop, similar to what we have at Adams. If you consider how much the lights gum up traffic at the Main and Grand intersection as compared to what happens at Main and Adams, the idea isn’t that crazy.
The same could also be said of Main and Bank, but I’d like to see how traffic changes in a few months with the opening of the Hacienda.
A safe route from Grand south of the downtown to the north side of Sims Park hasn’t been defined, but there are several possibilities. Continuing north through the downtown is one option. Cutting west and hitting the south side of park at the Lincoln Street crosswalk would be another. If you think you know where this is going (the Port Richey Waterfront District), you would be correct, but that is a topic for another day.
Keep dreaming about how we can continue to improve New Port Richey and make it an even better place to live, work, play, and raise a family.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor