Withlacoochee Trail

Open House: February 15th, 2018 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

at the Historic Pasco County Courthouse
Board Room (2nd Floor)
37918 Meridian Ave, Dade City, FL 33525

Route Study Executive Summary

For the last twenty-five (25) years, the forty-six (46) mile paved rail-trail Withlacoochee State Trail has been traversed by thousands of bikers, pedestrians, and other users of this multi-use trail. The Withlacoochee State Trail connects to the Coast to Coast Connector that allows users to travel from St. Petersburg to Cape Canaveral and is planned to be 250 miles in length. Currently, the southern end of the Withlacoochee State Trail terminates at the Owensboro Junction trailhead and is over 4 miles from Dade City.

In 2016, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) completed construction of a 4.5 mile multi-use trail segment at the southern edge of Dade City along US 301 that extends south to the City of Zephyrhills and is planned to be extended further into Hillsborough County.

For the last ten (10) years, the one (1) mile paved rail-trail Hardy Trail has been a great amenity for the residents of Dade City and surrounding areas. The trail is an old rail line that has been converted into a multi-use path that runs through many neighborhoods and downtown Dade City. Currently the Hardy Trail connects to only a sidewalk at the northern terminus, but there are no bicycle pedestrian facilities at the southern end of the trail. In 2016, Dade City retained the services of a consultant to provide detailed construction plans for a one (1) mile extension of the Hardy Trail to the north that would terminate at Lock Street.

In 2016, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) of Pasco County engaged a project team consisting of AECOM and Landis + Evans to assist the MPO with the preparation of a planning study to identify the preferred route to connect the future northern extension of the Hardy Trail in Dade City to the Owensboro Junction Trailhead of the Withlacoochee State Trail. This gap came to be known as the northern connection and is approximately six (6) miles in length. The study will also identify the preferred route to connect the current southern terminus of the Hardy Trail in Dade City to the existing trail along the west side of US 301 that currently ends at Dade City Avenue. This gap came to be known as the southern connection and is approximately one (1) mile in length. The preferred route will be consistent with the Pasco County Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

The study area (PDF) can be generally described as the area north of Dade City Avenue, south of the Owensboro Junction Trailhead of the Withlacoochee State Trail on the west side of US 301, west of US 301 and east of 21st Street/Powerline Road. The study area included consideration of the following:

  • Future Northern Extension of the Hardy Trail (designed by others)
  • Potential use of CSX rail property and other abandoned rail facilities
  • Potential future linkage opportunities to other community assets or facilities
  • Connection to Pasco County Parks and Dade City Parks
  • Coordination with Dade City and Pasco County
  • Interested individuals, stakeholders, or representatives of Home Owners Associations (HOA) in or near the study area
  • Coordination with future Morningside Drive Extension (designed by others)
  • Coordination with FDOT on the potential use of the US 301 right-of-way

Potential linkages to other transit facilities, such as Pasco County Public Transit (PCPT)

The study process began with a data gathering phase and then moved to a series of site visits and analysis of the data for the overall study area. Early in study, the project team, MPO, and Pasco County staff members spent a day on bikes in the study area riding many of the roadways and other possible route options and observed the many challenges inherent in connecting the US 301 trail to the Withlacoochee Trail.

Prior to developing any route options, the MPO and project team facilitated Public Meeting #1 on February 22, 2017 in Dade City to solicit input from the community on areas that would be both desirable and undesirable for routing the trail. The vast majority of the meeting attendees were very supportive of the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector project and most noted that it would be very desirable to stay off the US 301 corridor.

Based upon the input received during the first public meeting, the project team engaged in additional field work to better understand the areas that would be most suitable for a multi-use trail. A series of three (3) options were developed for both the northern and southern connections. All of these options were then presented at Public Meeting #2 on August 10, 2017 in Dade City that was facilitated by the MPO and project team. Again the consensus of the public was to keep the route as far away from US 301 as possible and look to utilize Powerline Road and Frazee Hill Road.

The project team then developed a preliminary recommended route. The northern connection can generally be described as running along US 301 for a limited distance and then utilizing a twenty five (25) foot corridor along the northern and western end of a portion of private property that would require acquisition. The trail would then continue along Old Trilby Road and utilize a portion of the constrained right-of-way, but this segment would also need to utilize an approximately five (5) feet corridor along the western edge of a portion of private property that would also require acquisition. After crossing Christian Road the trail could meander through the Pasco County owned parcel and come out along Powerline Road and head south. The trail would then head east along Frazee Hill Road and utilize a portion of the constrained right-of-way, but this segment would also need to utilize an approximately ten (10) feet corridor along the northern edge of a portion of private property that would require acquisition. At 14th Street, the trail would head south and the turn east at Lock Street to connect to the future Hardy Trail extension. The southern connection can generally be described as utilizing the Dade City property (old rail bed) south of the Hardy Trail and then utilizing a twenty five (25) foot corridor along the western end of a portion of private property that would require acquisition. The trail would then turn east along Beth Street and end at the US 301 trail.

Many contributed input and support during the trail study. This has been invaluable to the trail’s evolution. The Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will be a local asset as it fulfills the needs for multi-modal transportation, community connections, and recreation. It is sure to provide opportunities for tourism and boost the local economy as well as provide transportation alternatives to a traditionally underserved area. When completed, the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will provide visitors and residents of Dade City, Zephyrhills, San Antonio, St. Leo, and Trilby with access to safe bicycle and pedestrian transit opportunities in eastern Pasco County and beyond via the Coast to Coast Trail and other connected trail facilities.

Regional Context (PDF)

The name, Withlacoochee State Trail Connector, is derived from the fact that the proposed trail will ultimately connect the existing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in and around Dade City to the existing Withlacoochee State Trail. By connecting to the Withlacoochee State Trail, the proposed trail will ultimately tie into the statewide Coast-to-Coast Trail network.

At 46 miles in length, the Withlacoochee State Trail is presently one of the longest, paved rail-trails in Florida. With a generally flat terrain and many access points, the trail is an ideal venue for all skill and fitness levels of cycling, running, walking and skating. The trail corridor traverses three counties (Citrus, Hernando and Pasco), offering an enjoyable, varied journey as it runs through small towns, ranches and six distinct natural communities between Citrus Springs and Dade City. Officially designated as part of the Florida Greenways and Trail System, this State Trail is also a National Recreation Trail® which offers rich opportunities for viewing plants & wildlife and provides access to many other outstanding recreational opportunities.

The Coast-to-Coast Trail (C2C) will link communities between St. Petersburg and Titusville, providing a “safe, scenic and sunsational” multi-use trail allowing residents and visitors to explore Central Florida by bicycle and on foot. Upon completion, the Coast-to-Coast Trail will be a continuous paved multi-use trail across the State of Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It will span approximately 250 miles when completed. The C2C, which is part of the Sun Trail network, has many segments currently under design or construction. This trail will be the first of its kind in Florida and has already fueled the economic revitalization of communities along its route such as Dunedin and Winter Garden. The C2C is a major priority within the Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan developed by the Office of Greenways and Trails. A map of the C2C is included on the following page for reference.

There is great momentum and a favorable environment statewide for the connection of local trails and pedestrian ways, to close local gaps in trails, and to connect regional and state-wide trails. It is hoped that this study will ultimately assist with the development of the appropriate connection between existing trails. It is anticipated that by providing a critical link to Florida’s increasingly popular regional trail network, the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will help provide a boost to the local economies of Dade City, Saint Leo, San Antonio, Zephyrhills, Trilby, and beyond.

Planning and Design Considerations

The Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will be consistent with the Multi-Use Trails Component of the Pasco County Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the Pasco County Parks and Recreation Master Plan, and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) Regional Trail Network Plan.

The feasibility and predicted success of route alternatives and associated costs were analyzed and evaluated by assessing the following considerations:

  • Municipal boundaries
  • Land – ownership, adjacent uses, compatibility issues
  • Environmental – habitats, wetland, wildlife management issues
  • Physical Constraints – geology, hydrology, accessibility, existing drainage facilities and existing right-of-way widths
  • Construction Issues – materials, access, coordination with other projects/timing, stormwater design
  • Utilities coordination/investigation – conflicts, useful easements, location of water/sewer infrastructure
  • Proposed and planned Pasco County infrastructure improvement projects
  • Community/Public Involvement – Stakeholders, communication/information processes
  • Level of traffic stress (LTS)
  • Sustainability – maintenance, life cycle of elements and furnishings
  • Natural Assets
  • Compliance with FDOT design standards
  • Safety – vehicular traffic conflicts, crash areas
  • Identification of known or expected contamination issues
  • Trail amenities including seating, shade, signage, lighting and landscaping, trailhead/parking areas, and pedestrian crossings and planned improvements
  • Engineering support for complex conditions
  • Transit accessibility
  • Budget

The items above were considered in the development of the feasibility matrix discussed in the Exploration of Route Alternatives section of this document.

A minimum 12’ wide multi-use path or trail that is built specifically for use by bicycles and pedestrians separated from vehicular traffic is the favored facility of the majority of users. This type facility is considered the safest since conflict with vehicles is only encountered by vehicles crossing the path at roadway intersections or driveways. The ultimate goal for the proposed Withlacoochee State Trail Connector is to provide a safe and pleasant bicycle-pedestrian route that will be an asset to the local community while strengthening the regional trails network. Criteria established for determining potential routes and for evaluating their suitability include providing:

  • A 12’ wide, paved, trail separated from the road to the greatest extent possible
  • Links for valuable connections to the local community
  • The safest route with the least vehicular conflicts
  • The most direct route that satisfies all/or most of other the criteria
  • The most attractive route with potential for varied trail experiences
  • Avoidance of purchasing land by utilizing public/managed lands where possible
  • Avoidance of negative impacts to existing private property owners

Some portions of the study area are urban in character with very limited opportunities for construction of a shared-use path that is separate from the roadway. Because of the built-out nature of the environment, proposed bicycle/pedestrian trail routes must consider the full spectrum of possible bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure improvements including:

  • Separated multi-use trails (typically a minimum of 10’ wide) both off and adjacent to roadway
  • Widened sidewalks or sidepaths (typically a maximum of 8’ wide)
  • Expanding roadway pavement for adding bike lanes or cycle tracks
  • Widened road shoulders
  • Shared lane markings (sharrows) designated by pavement markings
  • Installation of traffic calming elements and refuge areas
  • Safety devices such as pedestrian/bicycle signals and signing

Based on the nature of the existing conditions it is possible that a multi-use trail design may include a combination of safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Some of these improvements are depicted graphically on the following page.

Existing Conditions

The study area of the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector has many unique characteristics. It ranges from areas that can generally be described as urban to areas that are very rural in nature, all of which is located in the rolling hills of eastern Pasco County. The more urban and suburban areas are located within Dade City. As described on their website:

Dade City typifies what many people think of as “old” or “historic” Florida by virtue of its physical features, its pioneer heritage, and the spirit of its residents. Established in 1889, Dade City is the county seat of Pasco County, and also serves as a commercial center for an area encompassing more than 71,000 residents. Dade City’s downtown restaurants and antique gift shops are popular attractions for visitors from the Tampa Bay and Lakeland areas.

Dade City’s local economy has historically been tied to agriculture, centered primarily on citrus and cattle production. Over time employment has shifted more to service, government and retail jobs, many of which are clustered around Dade City’s central core.

One of the unique challenges facing the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector is the lack of available public land on which to construct the trail. The Property Ownership map on the this page illustrates that most of the land within the study area is private property. The intent of this study is to avoid impacts to private land owners to the greatest extent practical, therefore it is critical to take advantage of the limited public land available. Fortunately Pasco County owns and/or maintains the majority of the existing roadway corridors. Additionally, the County owns a large parcel of land at the north end of the study area which will provide an opportunity to route a segment of the trail away from traffic. Dade City owns a narrow strip of land at the south end of the study area that can be utilized for the southern connection. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) controls the US 301 right-of-way which makes use of that land an option albeit of limited value. Unfortunately, this land presents many engineering challenges in addition to being an uncomfortable experience for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The project team also studied vehicle ownership in the study area. The map on the following page depicts the census block groups that exceeded the Pasco County average (5.9%) for percentage of households with no vehicle available. Information was taken from the US Census Bureau, 2015 ACS 5-Year Estimate, and Florida Geographic Data Library. The map indicates that the study area includes a higher percentage of households with no access to a motorized vehicle as compared to the countywide average.

Transportation Information

Immediately outside of the central core are many suburban, residential neighborhoods arranged in a grid-like network of low-speed, low-volume streets. Access to public transit is also concentrated in this area as the vast majority of Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT) bus stops are located here. Just outside the city limits, the agriculture-based, rural character becomes apparent and roadway speeds and right-of-ways generally increase while still carrying a relatively low volume of traffic. Some rural roadways in the study area are currently unpaved. US 301 generally runs north-south through the study area. As evidenced in the Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) map, US 301 is by far the busiest roadway in the study area and thus creates a daunting environment and formidable barrier for bicyclist and pedestrians.

The residents of the study area currently have access to minimal bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Access to high-quality, recreational trail opportunities are also limited, despite the existence of several trails in the area. The Hardy Trail is a popular multi-use trail that provides a scenic, shaded opportunity for walking or biking, however it is an isolated trail segment less than one mile in total length. Plans are currently underway to extend the Hardy Trail northward for an additional mile. The recently constructed US 301 Trail is available at the southern end of the study area, however it is located directly adjacent to the US 301 and it’s high traffic volume, making it less desirable from a recreation perspective. At the northern end of the study area is the Withlacoochee State Trail. This trail provides a great recreational opportunity; however it is disconnected from Dade City and the existing trails to the south.

Commuting by means of alternate transportation was also studied. The map on this page depicts the census block groups that exceeded the Pasco County average (1.9%) for percentage of commuters that walk, bike or take transit to travel to work. Information was taken from the US Census Bureau, 2015 ACS 5-Year Estimate, and Florida Geographic Data Library. The map indicates that the study area includes a higher percentage of households of commuters that walk, bike or take transit to travel to work as compared to the countywide average.

Public and Stakeholder Involvement

Participation by the general public, neighborhood groups, and stakeholders was facilitated by a series of public meetings in Pasco County held at strategic milestones throughout the planning process. Individual stakeholder meetings were also held for input in the initial information gathering and analysis stage and then continued throughout the process. Input from all these meetings was incorporated into the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector recommended alignment and associated details on how the trail could be designed, constructed, and maintained.

From this project’s inception, close coordination with the City of Dade City on the location of the connection to the future Hardy Trail northern extension, designed by others, has been critical. The first coordination meeting took place at the Dade City, City Hall building on December 12th, 2016. This meeting primarily served to introduce the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector project to Dade City Staff and to establish points of contact for future coordination. Even in these early stages, Dade City was eager to help with the project and pledged full support.

On February 22nd, 2017 the first of three public meetings was held to solicit input on potential alternatives. At this workshop, maps with background and contextual information were displayed, but no route alternatives were identified. Rather, the workshop sought to allow the public to provide potential options and also provide other information that may be useful in development of the alternates.

Soon after Public Meeting #1, it became increasingly clear that the limited available public land was likely to pose a problem for the proposed trail. At this point in the process, a recommended route was not yet determined but it was critical to begin to address the process of property acquisition in the event that property acquisition would be needed. As a result, a meeting was held on March 10th, 2017 at the West Pasco Government Center with Pasco County Real Estate and Legal departments.

Route Alternative 1 (PDF)

Northern Connection

Route Alternate #1 picks up at the terminus of the existing Withlacoochee State Trail at the Owensboro Junction Trailhead on the west side of US 301. The trail would proceed to the south on the west side of US 301, utilizing the wide right-of-way, until it reaches the intersection of Christian Road. This segment would require modification to the existing sidewalk and drainage structures located in the west right-of-way.

Upon reaching Christian Road, the trail would turn to the west and utilize the wide right-of-way associated with the Christian Road corridor. The Christian Road corridor, with a wide right-of-way and minimal conflicts and constraints, presents a highly suitable opportunity for implementation of this trail segment.

At the intersection of Christian Road and Powerline Road, the proposed trail would turn back to the south and utilize the Powerline Road right-of-way. Powerline Road is a typical rural roadway with relatively light traffic volumes surrounded by agricultural parcels. Sufficient right-of-way exists for routing the trail along this corridor and the north-south nature of the road makes for a more direct connection to the south, therefore this segment constitutes the largest portion of the northern connection of Route Alternate #1.

The trail will continue south along Powerline Road until the intersection with Frazee Hill Road. At this point, the trail will turn back to the east and continue along Frazee Hill Road. A constrained right-of-way and conflicts with utility and stormwater infrastructure may require the acquisition of some private property within this section (PDF).

At the terminus of Frazee Hill Road, the trail will turn back to the south and continue along 14th Street within the existing road right-of-way. Fourteenth Street transitions from a more rural character on the north end to a more suburban/urban character further south as it approaches the Dade City limits. Although the existing right-of-way is constrained in places and potential conflicts with existing utilities exist, this corridor can feasibly accommodate the proposed trail without acquiring additional property.

Once the trail reaches Calle de Milagros (Lock Street), it will turn east for a very short segment in order to make the connection to the Hardy Trail Extension. Fortunately, the trail will only need to be routed within the Calle de Milagros corridor for a short segment because it has a relatively high traffic volume and constrained right-of-way with potential utility conflicts. Despite these issues, this corridor could accommodate the trail without acquiring additional property but it will require more advanced engineering solutions to construct this final portion of the northern connection.

Southern Connection

The southern connection of Route Alternate #1 begins where the existing Hardy Trail intersects with Grenada Avenue. Grenada Avenue is a paved, neighborhood street that dead-ends at the Hardy Trail. Due to the limited available right-of-way and the slow speed and low traffic volume of Grenada Avenue, this portion of the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector would consist of shared lane markings (sharrows) for bicyclists and a sidewalk for pedestrians, rather than a separate multi-use trail. Signage and special pavement markings would be used to direct users through the neighborhood. At the end of Grenada Avenue, the connector will turn right and head south along 10th Street, then turn to the north and proceed along Willingham Avenue until it reaches US 301. The same combination of bicycle and pedestrian facilities would be utilized throughout these 3 segments within the neighborhood.

At the end of Willingham Avenue, the connection would turn to the south and proceed along the US 301 corridor. From Willingham Avenue south for approximately 800 feet, the US 301 right-of-way is extremely constrained and insufficient for construction of a multi-use trail. Additionally, the speeds and traffic volume of this roadway make implementation of shared lane markings infeasible. There is currently an existing sidewalk that could support pedestrian users however bicycle facilities would be limited to a signed route. After navigating through this constrained segment, the right-of-way of US 301 expands and is able to accommodate a multi-use trail. As a result, the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector would transition back to a multi-use trail facility for within the US 301 corridor until it connects to the terminus of the existing US 301 trail.

Route Alternative 2 (PDF)

Northern Connection

Route Alternate #2 begins at the Owensboro Junction Trailhead and will be routed to the west of the parking area and then south toward the US 301 corridor. The trail will then run along the west side of US 301. There is ample right-of-way in this location to keep the trail a comfortable distance away from the travel lanes and the existing sidewalk should be widened toward the right-of-way line or replaced with a multi-use trail. The trail would then utilize a portion of a private parcel to connect to Old Trilby Road (PDF). Old Tribly Road is a rural road with very low traffic volume and speed and a portion of the road is unpaved. The right-of-way for this corridor is narrow and construction of a multi-use trail will require the acquisition of additional land at the pinch points.

The proposed trail will continue south along Old Trilby Road, cross Christian Road, and then enter into a large parcel owned by Pasco County. The future use of this parcel is currently undetermined; however the County has expressed a willingness to allow the trail to be routed through the property. Within this parcel, the trail will be routed near the perimeter of the parcel and will meander around valuable trees and other significant vegetation. The trail will exit this parcel at the southwest corner and turn south along Powerline Road.

The portion of Route Alternate #2 that runs along Powerline Road is the same as Route Alternate #1 except this alternate continues past the intersection of Frazee Hill Road until it reaches Long Avenue.

At Long Avenue, the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will transition to a combination of sidewalk and shared lane markings. Long Avenue is more of an urban/suburban character with curb and gutter and an existing sidewalk. The right-of-way is constrained and there are conflicts with existing utilities which make the construction of a separate multi-use trail infeasible. This combination of bicycle and pedestrian facilities will continue east to 14th Street. Long Avenue was selected to make this connection in order to avoid an unpaved section of Powerline Road south of Long Avenue.

Once the Connector reaches 14th Street, it will transition back to a multi-use trail and proceed from this point to the connection with the Hardy Trail Extension in same manner as Route Alternate #1.

Southern Connection

The southern connection of Route Alternate #2 picks up at the southern terminus of the existing Hardy Trail. In general, the southern section of Route Alternate #2 relies primarily on the construction of the Morningside Drive Extension (PDF), which is a future roadway project that will extend Morningside Drive to the west and provide a more direct link between the existing Bayfront Health – Dade City hospital and the US 301 corridor. Unfortunately this Dade City sponsored project has been in discussion for nearly a decade and the timetable for construction is still unknown. According to the most recent information from Dade City, a funding source has not been identified and construction likely will not occur for at least 5 more years. When/If this project is constructed, a separate multi-use trail could be constructed within the Morningside Drive Extension right-of-way. The trail would continue south from the Hardy Trail and then turn back east toward US 301, running adjacent to the Morningside Drive Extension.

Upon reaching US 301, the proposed trail would turn to the south and continue within the US 301 corridor for a short segment, eventually connecting to the existing US 301 Trail.

Route Alternative 3 (PDF)

Northern Connection

Route Alternate #3 begins at the terminus of the existing Withlacoochee State Trail at the Owensboro Junction Trailhead and proceeds south along US 301. The existing right-of-way of US 301 in this area is more than sufficient to accommodate a multi-use trail however there are extensive conflicts with existing drainage structures throughout the corridor. Despite these conflicts, it is possible to construct the proposed trail along the west side of US 301, expanding the existing sidewalk from six feet wide to twelve feet, thus creating a width suitable for use as multi-use trail.

Just south of Payne Road, the width of the US 301 right-of-way narrows and the available space for constructing a trail becomes insufficient. As a result, the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will exit the US 301 corridor and head west then south along Payne Road. Payne Road is a low traffic volume and speed, predominately residential street. The first segment of Payne Road, from US 301 to the curve, is very constrained and numerous conflicts with utilities and structures exist. For this section, the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will transition to a combination of sidewalk and shared lane markings. Once Payne Road and the Connector turn south, the road corridor becomes capable of supporting a multi-use trail. Soon after the turn to the south, Payne Road ends and becomes 14th Street. From this point south to the connection with the Hardy Trail Extension, the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will be the same as Route Alternate #1.

Southern Connection

The southern connection of Route Alternate #3 begins at the southern end of the existing Hardy Trail and continues due south along an old rail bed. Dade City owns a narrow parcel that extends approximately ¼ of a mile from the terminus of the Hardy Trail south and contains the old rail bed. The trail will meander around significant vegetation through this parcel.

After the first ¼ mile, the land becomes privately owned but the old rail bed continues. The rail bed provides a prime opportunity for trail construction by limiting impacts to existing wetland areas and vegetation while at the same time providing a scenic, off-the-road user experience. Some property acquisition will be necessary, however only a narrow strip will be needed in order to accommodate trail construction.

Once the proposed trail reaches Beth Street, it will turn to the east and continue along Beth Street until it reaches the existing US 301 Trail. Beth Street is currently an unpaved, rural road with sufficient right-of-way to accommodate a multi-use trail. This final segment of the Withlacoochee State Trail Connector will tie into the existing US 301 Trail approximately 700 feet south of its current terminus.