Anna Maria debates merits, cost of multiuse path

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Bicyclists ride in the designated bike lane between a drainage swale and vehicles on Gulf Drive in Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

Anna Maria officials debated July 27 the merits of a multiuse path alongside Gulf Drive between Cross-Pointe Fellowship and Willow Avenue.

The discussion came up when Mayor Dan Murphy asked commissioners if they would support such a path, which would cost $171,722 to build.

But commissioners expressed hesitation about a path that mixes pedestrians and motorized vehicles, and Murphy agreed to rewrite the proposal to include only bikes and pedestrians and make a presentation to the commission Aug. 10.

As proposed, the multiuse 10-foot-wide path would allow off-the-road pedestrian, bicycle, motorcycle and golf cart travel.

The path would be constructed where there is currently a drainage swale. Murphy said the city would replace the swale with vertical infiltration to maintain stormwater drainage.

Murphy told commissioners the path would eventually connect to Holmes Beach’s bike path, adding that a multipurpose trail exists at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

However, the Coquina Beach trail is limited to pedestrians and bikers.

Anna Maria Commissioner Dale Woodland said he supported constructing a multiuse path because it would get bicyclists off the road, give them a wide path and put distance between cyclists and automobiles.

Commissioners Doug Copeland, Carol Carter and Nancy Yetter expressed apprehension about including motorized vehicles and pedestrians on the same path.

“I think if it were more strictly a bike path, I can see safety being enhanced,” Yetter said. However, she said, if it’s multiuse, “I just don’t see the safety factor we want to achieve and I think it’s a waste of money if there’s no additional safety.”

Copeland said he would support a proposal that didn’t include motorized vehicles.

Commissioner Brian Seymour also supported the path, but didn’t think it was the right time for Anna Maria to begin construction.

“How long will it sit and deteriorate before we do have some place to connect it to?” Seymour asked.

Amy Tripp, who in 2015 designed a bike route on Anna Maria’s less-traveled streets, told commissioners she supports the proposal.

In addition, she told commissioners, the route wouldn’t end at Willow — her route continues on Willow Avenue, allowing bicyclists to avoid most major roads.

According to Tripp’s path, bicyclists can take Willow to North Shore Drive and then continue north.

“I am a big supporter of it happening,” she said Aug. 1.

Holmes Beach has a bicycle path proposal in place, island engineer Lynn Burnett said, but “it’s not apples to apples.”

The Holmes Beach path wouldn’t be a multiuse path but a bicycle path. In addition, she said, the most recent proposal the city has been discussing connects Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach, not Anna Maria.

Murphy said it would take five to six months to complete the project.

The path proposal is in the city’s 10-year plan, Murphy said. “It seems like maybe some people have changed their mind,” although the new proposal might still allow for some motorized vehicles, such as a motorized wheelchair, for accessibility purposes.

Zach Burch, Florida Department of Transportation representative for the southern portion of District 1, said multiuse paths that mix pedestrians and motorized vehicles exist along some highways and city roads in the state.

He added that Florida statutes give local municipalities the right to construct such paths on local streets.

The city commission will take up the discussion at the next budget session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

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