July 7, 2014

Cross-Charlotte bike trail is proposed

City transportation planners propose to help expand the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and two other greenways into a 30.6-mile bikeway from Cabarrus County to York County, S.C.

The whirr of bike chains and snap of gear shifts should become more common sounds in parts of Charlotte in coming years.

That’s because the city stands ready to pump up Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s lagging trail network for bicycles. City transportation planners propose to help expand the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and two other greenways into a 30.6-mile bikeway from Cabarrus County to York County, S.C.

The Cross-Charlotte Trail, as it’s called, would advance the Little Sugar Creek Greenway from its northern point at Cordelia Park, near uptown. The multiple-use trail would go through the NoDa arts and entertainment district, join the Toby Creek and Mallard Creek greenways in the UNC Charlotte area and pass south of U.S. 29 to the county line.

The city would build nearly 14 miles of bikeway in three segments costing $35 million. The money would come from bond issues in the next two years.

The trail could make it feasible for workers to commute by bicycle and light rail. Planners say the trail’s corridor would lie within a block to a half-mile of the Lynx Blue Line’s 9.3-mile extension from uptown to UNCC. Commuters in northeast Charlotte could bike – and walk – to a train station and catch the Lynx when the train starts running in 2017.

Jane Cacchione, executive director of the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance, lauded the proposed trail.

“It’s going to be outstanding,” she said, adding that the bikeway would offer more than recreational riding. “It will help make connections throughout our city (and) will be a tool to get from place to place.”

No timetable for completion of the city’s portion of the trail has been determined, said Dan Gallagher, city transportation planning manager.

But if voters in November OK the $146 million bond package containing $5 million for the trail, he said, design work could begin in early 2015. The city would also fast-track construction of a 1.4-mile segment along Little Sugar Creek from Woodlawn Road south to Tyvola Road. The remaining $30 million would be put to the voters for approval in 2016.

The project, a city and county partnership, emerged after discussions about creating a bikeway to span the city by stitching together existing trails with city money. City planners list the length of Cross-Charlotte Trail at 25.9 miles; that doesn’t count 4.7 miles in Pineville.

Charlotte has lagged in building bicycle trails. The city ranked 41st of 52 major metropolitan areas in commuter bicycling and walking levels in a 2014 report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking in Washington, D.C. Mecklenburg County has 37 miles of greenways; its master plan calls for 202 miles.

If completed today, the Cross-Charlotte Trail would be among the longest urban bikeways in the Carolinas. Raleigh’s longest greenway, the Neuse River Trail, spans 27.5 miles.

The city would build the following segments:

• Little Sugar Creek Greenway, Woodlawn Road to Tyvola Road, 1.4 miles, $3 million-$4 million, opening in 2018.
• Little Sugar Creek Greenway, Seventh Street north to 12th Street and Cordelia Park north to Toby Creek Greenway at North Tryon Street. 9 miles, $28 million. No opening date has been set.
• Mallard Creek Greenway (a joint city-county project since part of the greenway will be outside the city limits), Kirk Farm Fields east to Cabarrus County, 3.4 miles, $4 million. No opening date has been set.

Like the existing greenway trails, the surfaces will be asphalt or concrete with a minimum width of 10 feet, although most areas likely will be 15 feet wide, Gallagher said.

To accomplish its part, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation is moving to complete 8.4 miles of Little Sugar Creek Greenway in southern Mecklenburg. Here’s a summary of county segments, cost and projected completion date. (Estimated mileages don’t add up to 30.6 miles because exact routes haven’t been determined):

• Tyvola Road south to Huntingtowne Farms Park, 1.4 miles, $2.8 million, 2016-2017. An isolated, 0.9-mile part of the greenway runs through the park.
• Huntingtowne Farms Park to Cadillac Street in Pineville, 2.3 miles, $4.2 million.
• Cadillac Street to Polk Street in Pineville, 1.7 miles, $3.4 million.
• Polk Street to the South Carolina line, 3 miles, $5.3 million.

The last three segments are to be finished by 2018-2019.

At that point, bicyclists would be able to ride continuously 14 miles from the greenway’s temporary end at Seventh Street, beside Central Piedmont Community College, through the Metropolitan area and Freedom Park, to York County.

In addition, Park and Rec will extend Toby Creek Greenway south by 2.5 miles. The first segment, 1 mile, will go from its present end at University City Boulevard to Autumnwood Lane. Costing $1.4 million, it is to open in 2016. No money is available now for the remaining 1.5-mile segment, Autumnwood Lane to North Tryon Street, said greenway planner Gwen Cook. That segment is estimated to cost $2.9 million.

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