Nearly 15 years after it was first conceived, the Pine Hills Trail is closer to becoming a reality as Orange County has opened up bids for the nearly $7 million project.
The county is seeking a general contractor for the 2.7 mile path that will run from Alhambra Drive to Silver Star Road, with a spur connecting the trail to Barnett Park.
The construction budget is up to $5.9 million. The design work, which is complete, was budgeted at $826,000. The project is being funded through federal dollars administered by the Florida Department of Transportation. Construction is expected to begin in February and be complete in September of 2017. Bids are due Oct. 29.
There are high hopes for what the project can do for the Pine Hills community, which was one of Orlando's first suburbs. The community was established in the early 1950s, and was home to upper- and middle-class residents before deteriorating in the 1980s and 1990s and garnering a reputation for crime and other social ills.
The trail will hopefully be a draw for residents and people outside the area, said Orange County Parks and Recreation Planner Bill Thomas. "Whenever we've built trails they have been positive things for the community."
Thomas cited as a prime example the West Orange Trail's positive impact on downtown Winter Garden.
"It brought a lot of people in who didn't even know it was there," he said.
The Pine Hills Trail could attract businesses to serve people who use the path and will be a way of greatly improving the tenor of land that right now serves as a place to dump unwanted items, Thomas said.
The trail was first proposed in 2001 but delayed a number of times by funding and land purchase considerations.
The Pine Hills Trail will be a 10-foot wide asphalt path with one-foot wide concrete ribbon curbs on either side. The main trail section from Alhambra Drive to Silver Star Road will be about 1.6 miles and the spur to Barnett Park is planned to be 0.9 miles.
The trail will be open to pedestrians, roller bladers and cyclists and will not allow motor vehicles.
This is phase I for the trail which, in coming years, is slated to tie into the West Orange Trail and the planned Coast-To-Coast Trail to the north, and Shingle Creek Trail in the south, Thomas said.