New Port Richey proposes under-bridge trail to Port Richey waterfront

Port Richey's waterfront has become quite popular for folks who like to play on the water.

"I just like the togetherness it brings. All the people come together and eat at the restaurants," said Rebecca Huihui, who works at  Freedom Boat Club.

But if you don't come by boat, good luck. To get to the waterfront from New Port Richey, you have to cross busy U.S. 19.

It's a pain.

"It's a very dangerous highway. There have been a lot of fatalities," says Jeff Starkey, deputy mayor of New Port Richey.

There were nine pedestrian fatalities along U.S. 19 in this part of Pasco County in 2017. Dozens more were seriously injured. 

New Port Richey city leaders want to find a better way for people to get to the water and they're looking underneath the U.S. 19 bridge. They want to build a trail along the river bank.

"It would be going between those pillars right there," says Starkey pointing to the support structures under the bridge.

The trail would be 18 feet wide, so it could accommodate walkers, bicycles, and golf carts.

"A preferred method of transportation for many of our residents is golf carts," said Starkey.

He says the trail would help connect the main growth areas of both west Pasco County communities.

"Both areas are taking off. We're experiencing a renaissance in dowtown New Port Richey and the waterfront is becoming more and more popular in Port Richey," said Starkey.

Like several other local cities, New Port Richey is allowing inspected and registered golf carts to operate on its streets. However, golf carts are not allowed on U.S. 19.  

Starkey believes the route to bridging the gap between downtown and the waterfront may lie under the bridge.

The cost of the trail is estimated at $3.5 million. The plan still needs approval from the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Florida Department of Transportation.