Oviedo trail bridge opens

Seminole County recently completed a pedestrian bridge across Red Bug Lake Road in Oviedo.

Seminole County recently completed a pedestrian bridge across Red Bug Lake Road in Oviedo.

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Pedestrians and bikers can now relax when they cross the intersection of Red Bug Lake Road and State Road 426. The new 868-foot pedestrian bridge, which towers over those busy streets, opened for business on June 12.

The bridge is the newest addition to the 25-mile Cross Seminole Trail, which begins at the intersection of Aloma Avenue and Howell Branch Road and meanders north through Oviedo and Winter Springs until it meets the Seminole-Wekiva Trail at the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 4 in Lake Mary.

Seminole County’s goal is to allow citizens to walk or bike throughout the county without having to cross through dangerous traffic at multiple intersections. They will accomplish this by filling in gaps in the trail, such as a missing link at the intersection of State Road 434 and 419.

“Crossing Red Bug Lake Road can be very dangerous depending on what time of day you cross it,” Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari said. “The point is to continue the expansion of Cross Seminole Trail and increase safety and usage. This (new) bridge does that by eliminating the traffic burden of pedestrians crossing the street, because the six lanes (of Red Bug) can be very dangerous when passing them on foot.”

Oviedo resident Jim Bowe agreed.

“I wouldn’t want my family crossing this intersection (on foot),” Bowe said. After visiting the bridge with his grandson for the first time, he said it’s a welcome addition. “Was it necessary? Not really. But it’s great for safety and it expands the range for bicyclists along the trail.”

Greg and Cindy Register of Oviedo, who regularly bike along the Cross Seminole Trail, agreed. “This intersection (of Red Bug and SR-426) is the crossroads of Oviedo,” Cindy said. “You often have to sit here for a while, and it’s bad for bikers. Sometimes they’d just scoot their way across, but most have to stop. Now you don’t have to stop … all the time.”

“It’s really nice to see the city and county invest in this structure,” Greg said. “Aesthetically, they’ve done a great job. The bricks, the colors, the design … you can tell they really thought about it.”

Construction on the bridge began in September and finished on June 12, three months early. The project came in below budget, costing about $3.3 million out of the $4 million budget. The bridge was funded through a federal stimulus package provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Seminole County principal engineer David Martin said. The county went through three rounds of bidding with Congress before funds were secured.

The county entered into a contract with American Bridge in May of last year. Although all construction is finished and it is open to the public, the bridge is still under the jurisdiction of American Bridge until they release it back to the county, which should be near the end of the month, Dallari said.

“What you see there is the finished product,” Dallari said. “The only outstanding things preventing them from turning it over to us are very minor things. They did a very good job.”

Additions to the trail have been in the works since the project’s conception in the late 1990s. Construction is expected to start on the next phase of the project on Jan. 3. For $300,000, the county plans to extend the trail from State Road 434 to the Oviedo Gymnasium and Aquatic Center in downtown Oviedo.

That following April, the Seminole-Wekiva Trail, which the Cross Seminole merges into, will undergo an extension from State Road 436 down to the border of Orange County, near the Kids ‘R Us on 436. Dallari said Seminole County is using money from a voter-approved trails referendum that was passed in 2000.