Councilman Cretekos, answering citizen’s spending concerns, said, “This isn’t the city’s money, this is the federal government’s money, which is still your money. But if we don’t do it, what happens to the money?" What happens is someone else spends the money anyway, in another town or county. He added, “So, this is an opportunity to do something for our citizens in Clearwater.” Cretekos addressed another concern: “I do have one more question along those lines,” he said, “that has to do with the maintenance of the project after it’s completed.” His concern was put to rest however, as the pavement, striping and signage of the new bike path is replacing that of the existing roadway, all costs being absorbed by the current budget of maintaining that roadway – no additional expense to the city.
This project has good implications for downtown Clearwater, potentially attracting some of the Pinellas Trail’s estimated 90,000 monthly users to within one block of many downtown restaurants and other businesses. It will also result in the resurfacing of East Avenue—which has long been overlooked due to issues with the railroad—with a new asphalt type ideal for bikes and pedestrians. This will further enhance the ongoing beautification of the downtown street-scape.
To qualify for federal stimulus funding, the city was required to submit complete design plans, ready for implementation. Speaking about the East Avenue proposal, Mayor Hibbard said, “This is a good project, and one of the only enhancement projects in the whole district that got money. So it rated very highly in an extremely competitive process.”
Construction begins this fall, lasting 180 days. When complete, drivers will not have southbound access on East Avenue from Drew Street to Turner Street. Traffic will use alternative routes on Myrtle, Garden, or Fort Harrison avenues.