TAMPA — A somewhat obscure 1.7-mile paved trail connecting to the Tampa Riverwalk will soon become a lot more visible.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority board has voted to invest $2.5 million to upgrade the trail with pocket parks, bike racks, landscaping and other amenities.

Already, the authority is adding signs to direct pedestrians, bicyclists and skaters to the 15-foot wide trail. The pavement runs east-west from the Brorein Street bridge in downtown Tampa where it connects to the city’s Riverwalk and the expressway authority’s Meridian Trail to 19th Street in Ybor City. Lighting will also be added for both safety and visibility, said expressway authority communications director Sue Chrzan.

She said the authority’s staff is working on a master plan for the trail, which also will include adding benches and public art. “We’re making the Greenway a nice trail. Right now, it’s just a path.”

And not an easy path to find, said Erik Trull, director for Coast Bikeshare, which rents bikes in the downtown area. “It’s totally worth spending that money on the trail so people can actually find it. I’ve seen people use it on the north side of the Channel District, but once you get to that Kennedy connector, there are no signs.

“For the most part, people just don’t know yet that it exists,” Krull said. Eventually, though, the Selmon Greenway will be an important transportation alternative for people living and working downtown and on its outskirts, he said.

“It’s a great amenity when we’re talking about bringing in new businesses to downtown, as well,” said Mariella Smith, an avid bicyclist and community activist. “Although it seems like a short trail, it connects not only to the Riverwalk but to downtown. It gives an alternative to people. They won’t have to get in their car to go a half mile or a mile to the grocery or out to dinner.”

Smith said she just returned from a vacation trip to Santiago, Chile, where she and her husband found an abundance of bicycle trails and plenty of people using them, from pregnant women to men and women in business suits and grandmothers with baskets full of groceries.

“And look at Pinellas County. They get it,” Smith said. “Their county administrator recently said that the Pinellas Trail was the single most important project the county has ever built. They’ve seen the benefits in the town centers, economic benefits.”

The Selmon Greenway was designed and paved in 2014 with nearly $500,000 from the expressway authority, which owns the Selmon Expressway, and with $1.9 million from a Tiger Grant the City of Tampa received from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the Riverwalk, Chrzan said.

The $2.5 million for the enhancements comes from expressway tolls and parking tolls charged at city lots under the expressway, she said.

“Part of the reason we exist as a regional toll authority is to give back to the community,” Chrzan said. “When we gained independence from the Florida Department of Transportation in 2012, we built a savings account. We were able to start doing projects like this.”

Chrzan said the expressway authority expects to complete the trail master plan by January.

“There are no artists’ renderings at this point,” she said. “We don’t want to promise anything we can’t deliver.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide alternative forms of transportation,” she said. “Improving the walkability and the pedestrian and bicycle connection downtown makes it worth it.”

These upgrades come right on the heels of the Riverwalk’s March completion. The Selmon Greenway and the Riverwalk, a contiguous walking and bicycling link between Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the Channel District, are coming ahead of what is expected to be a massive surge of new businesses, a new University of South Florida medical school, hotels, restaurants condominiums and more, all part of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s $1 billion development plan. Port Tampa Bay has also unveiled a development plan for the Channel District waterfront, which includes apartments, a marina, a park, restaurants and more.

And while the city already has the Tampa historic streetcar, it is spending $1.2 million this fiscal year on a contract to study modernizing the 2.7-mile TECO Streetcar Line to make it more commuter friendly and to accommodate the urban centric millennial generation that prefers alternative forms of transportation to automobiles. Millennials and empty nesters are expected to occupy many of the new residences planned for downtown Tampa.