CLEARWATER – The Courtney Campbell Causeway is different things to different people.
To the Florida Department of Transportation, it’s the route of State Road 60, a major thoroughfare connecting the Pinellas Peninsula to Tampa and points east. To sun-starved northern tourists, it’s the quickest route from Tampa International Airport to Clearwater Beach. But to many local residents, it’s a recreation destination where, just yards from the heavy traffic, they can swim, fish, play volleyball or just relax.
That being the case, the city of Clearwater has agreed to maintain the “Shared Use Path,” between the roadway and Tampa Bay, from Bayshore Boulevard to the Hillsborough County line. Final ratification of that 10-year agreement was placed on the consent agenda of the May 15 City Council meeting, and rubber-stamp approval is expected.
The proposed agreement between FDOT and the city says that “the parties recognize the need for entering into an agreement designating and setting forth the responsibilities of each party in maintaining the improvements” that are currently underway and are expected to be completed a year from now.
“It’s in areas we’re already doing maintenance on,” Kevin Dunbar, the city’s director of Parks and Recreation, told the City Council at its May 12 work session. He added that the city’s liability for injuries incurred on the state-owned land it will be maintaining is capped at $25,000.
To the extent allowed by Florida law, the city may apply the same rules, regulations and ordinances to the “Shared Use Path” as it applies to its own recreational facilities. But it cannot make any improvements without FDOT approval or hold special events there without getting approval at least 60 days in advance.
The agreement adds that anything “interfering with the safe and efficient operation of any transportation facility, or (that) is otherwise determined to present a danger to public health, safety or welfare” must immediately be corrected at the city’s expense. The Department of Transpiration will inspect the property annually and, if any major violations are found and not quickly corrected, the agreement can be terminated.
The Department of Transportation reserves the right to void the agreement if the land is ever needed to widen State Road 60. But it must give Clearwater at least 60 days’ notice before doing so.
Before a new Clearwater employee or a contractor hired by the city can be assigned to work on the “Shared Use Path,” he or she must be cleared by the E-Verify system of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But that shouldn’t be a problem.
“It’s in areas we’re already doing the maintenance on,” Dunbar told the council.
The conversation then digressed into an area that was not on the agenda. For some time, there has been a plan for a project, costing between $750,000 and $1 million, to connect the Bayshore Trail, which currently ends at Bayshore Drive, with the Reem Wilson Trail, eight-tenths of a mile away. The council members decided to move the $750,000 funding for the project, already earmarked for next year, up by a year to this fall so all the trail work can be done at the same time.
“I think it is an appropriate decision for the council (to make) at this time,” Council member Bill Jonson told his colleagues.
They agreed and unanimously voted to put the measure on the May 15 consent agenda, thereby virtually guaranteeing its passage.