Plans for a 30-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail from downtown Charlotte to downtown Mooresville are moving forward after receiving support from the seven municipalities involved.
The Charlotte-Mooresville Trail is a proposed, north-south, mixed-use trail that would serve as a regional transportation route for cyclists and pedestrians as well as a local greenway to serve Charlotte, Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mecklenburg County, Mooresville and Iredell County.
Mecklenburg County Greenway Planner Gwen Cook said the project started as a grass-roots concept of roughly 20 interested citizens and volunteer staff members in late 2010. The project was recently awarded $35,000 from the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization to help with planning.
The grant required a 20 percent match be paid by the county, city and towns. Huntersville Transportation Planner Bill Coxe said Huntersville was the last municipality to approve the $1,200 portion of the match, at its Jan. 22 meeting. The others had previously agreed to their share of the funding.
Coxe said he had met with volunteers and staff and “did a back-of-the-envelope layout” of where the trail would be viable, noting the proposed route would run parallel to the rail line and N.C. 115, using the ridgeline between the Yadkin River and Catawba River basins and existing portions of low-volume neighborhood roads.
“Now we’re hiring a consultant to do that more detailed look at what we laid out and bring to bear some public involvement,” he said. “Doing this level of work begins to open up options for funding of construction. You don’t have those options when it’s a pipe dream.”
Within the next month, Cook said, the group hopes to use the planning grant money to contract with a consultant to work on the potential cost of the trail. She said there currently is not an estimate of what the project could cost, because factors like rights of way, environmental issues and utilities haven’t been studied.
The project was previously called the Red Line Trail, Cook said, but the name was changed because it isn’t dependant on the rail line. “It is a stand-alone project,” she said. “It’s even stronger if there’s a Red Line Rail behind it,” she said, noting a previous study showed if the commuter rail were developed, the trail would see more than a million users annually.
“There’s such a need for a north-south corridor in our bike-(pedestrian) plans in the northern part of the county.” Cook said the trail would be like an interstate for bikes and will likely be wider than most greenways.
As far as potential cost, “Some things will be less expensive, some will be more expensive,” Cook said. “If we make it wider, it’d be more expensive. But the land is not in a flood plain, so that would be expensive,” she said. “Flood-plain land is often donated to us because it’s not as valuable as high ground.”
Cook said a number of public meetings will likely be held in April and May, before the consultant’s work concludes at the end of June. Coxe said they’ll likely have an estimate on construction cost when that work concludes. “The wild unknown will be cost of right of way. There are lots of parcels involved and utilities that have to be dealt with, which gets very complicated and expensive.”
Cook said after planning is finished, “The next big thing after this will be finding money and deciding which sections to work on first.”
Coxe said he expects construction to begin sometime in the next two to three years but noted it could take up to 30 years to finish the trail.
Funds for the trail will come from a mix of private and public sector monies, he said. “This will be implemented over time, as the opportunity presents itself.” He said a number of grant opportunities exist, whether to help revitalize downtown areas or support bicycle initiatives within a community. “There are always private benefactors or developers … who see value of implementing that (portion of trail) in development because it adds value to the development,” Coxe said.
Once planning has finished, Cook said, each jurisdiction will work to adopt the trail into their parks and greenway master plans; begin to identify funding sources and begin meeting with Norfolk-Southern.
Cook said they don’t anticipate having the trail in the rail right of way, but there will be a few places where rail line and trail would cross. “Safety will be first,” she said.
Cook said it’s likely the Mooresville-Charlotte Trail could also be an overlay for the Carolina Thread Trail, which currently shares about 16 miles of county greenway. Cook, a member of the thread trail advisory board, said it could be another avenue for funding.
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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