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Additions to Trails nearing 1st steps

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Preliminary construction of a new phase of the People Trails system that will link far-westside neighborhoods off State Road 46 to Columbus Regional Hospital will begin soon, city officials said.

When completed, the new section for bicyclists, pedestrians, runners and skaters is expected to play an important role in city revitalization efforts, said Heather Pope, director of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

If permits, land acquisition and final designs can be obtained this winter, crews could start moving dirt for the 10-foot-wide People Trails extension south of Second Street late this winter.

The trail will extend from Lafayette Avenue, north of the railroad tracks, east under the State Street bridge to the existing Hawcreek Trail along Central Avenue, said Laurence Brown, Columbus Area Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director.

Pending any unexpected delays, the new section will be paved this spring, with the entire $200,000 project funded with private money raised through the Columbus Park Foundation, Brown said.

Made for walking

Timetable of three new sections of the People Trails in Columbus.

  • Second Street extension: From Lafayette Avenue to the existing Hawcreek path near State Street and Central Avenue; construction begins late this winter, with paving expected in spring
  • Clifty Park People Trails, from Clifty Creek to Indiana Avenue and east to McKinley Avenue; tentatively planned for 2015
  • Downtown river walk extension from the former Senior Center under the Robert N. Stewart Bridge to Water Street; tentatively planned for 2016

The trail connection provides an added measure of safety. Some residents who use the popular trail system frequently have commented that there is no safe and practical way for bicyclists and walkers to avoid heavy traffic while moving between downtown areas and State Street, Pope said.

Once completed, the trail also is expected to encourage private development south of Second Street and boost efforts to revitalize the State Street corridor, Pope said.

“The trail extension to State Street is only one small piece of the (revitalization) pie, but it’s an important piece,” Pope said.

Bicyclists and walkers wishing to continue west from the new extension along the People Trails will be asked to go south along Lafayette Avenue to Water Street, where a second connection of the downtown river walk under the Robert N. Stewart Bridge eventually will be built. It would link the river walk in Mill Race Park to the old city pump house that once housed the Senior Center, Brown said.

Since there is little vehicular traffic along Water Street, city officials believe bicyclists and pedestrians can use part of the street itself with relative safety as part of the trail system, Brown said.

The river walk extension from the pump house under the Second Street bridge to Water Street last week was made eligible to receive federal funds when the project was incorporated into the city’s Transportation Improvement Program by the Metropolitan Plan Commission Policy Board, Brown said. Eighty-percent of the $1 million dollar project will be paid with federal funds, while the remainder will be picked up through private local sources, Brown said.

But city officials still have to prioritize the river walk extension with other federally funded projects that include renovations to Indiana Avenue and improvements to Taylor Road, Brown said. So even with the policy board’s approval, trail construction from the old pump house to Water Street won’t get underway until 2016, Brown said.

Another extension of the People Trails on the city’s southeast side also was approved for federal funding by the policy board.

The $150,000 project will stretch from Clifty Creek north through Clifty Park and include a side path along North Marr Road that eventually will link with McKinley Avenue. That project is slated for completion in 2015, Brown said.

However, the timetables are not set in stone, Brown said.

Unexpected delays are possible as the three trail extensions proceed through final design, land acquisition and permitting phases, he said.

When completed, all three projects will significantly help the community move closer to the goal of having 90 percent of all city residents living within three blocks of a bicycle and pedestrian facility, said April Williams, Columbus Park Foundation resource development director.

“When we started this campaign to expand the trails in 2011, we saw the community rally for the cause,” Williams said. “In fact, the Park Foundation was able to raise a million dollars for trail extensions in just six or seven months.”

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