University City

University City greenway construction set for spring

A greenway project linking the UNC Charlotte campus to nearby neighborhoods and retail has cleared a key hurdle with the state Department of Transportation and is now on track to begin construction this spring.

According to Mecklenburg County project manager Karen Weston-Chien, N.C. DOT has approved construction plans for the project, named Toby Creek Greenway Phase II. That sets the stage for a final round of authorizations before Mecklenburg County can hire a contractor to build the greenway.

Weston-Chien, with the county’s Asset and Facility Management office, has confirmed that the key pre-bid meeting about the project is scheduled for Jan. 26.

The new greenway segment will provide a safe and convenient way to bike or walk to the campus and shopping.

The 1.3-mile extension will connect the existing Toby Creek Greenway through the UNCC campus to Autumnwood and other neighborhoods along Rocky River Road West, near the historic center of the old Newell township.

A newly added stretch will connect with the retail center on University City Boulevard near Target.

The Toby Creek Greenway also will connect with a city-sponsored sidewalk project in Autumnwood, near the intersection of Rockland and Blue Rock drives.

The “Newell South” sidewalk project and the Toby Creek Greenway represent important links in an envisioned bike-and-pedestrian trail linking the UNCC campus to uptown Charlotte via the NoDa arts district.

The city sidewalk project also is slated for construction and completion this year, according to Cary Chereshkoff, project engineer with the city of Charlotte.

For most of its length, the greenway extension will follow Toby Creek under a canopy of tall trees. Construction is challenging on the site, said Gwen Cook, Mecklenburg County’s greenway planner. Bridges are necessary where the creek’s channel is especially wide and deep. Construction is expected to take a full year.

Both Cook and Weston-Chien are optimistic work will begin this spring. Weston-Chien warned, however, that it remains a slow step-by-step process, even though funding has been approved.

Since Federal money is involved, N.C. DOT must ask the Federal Highway Administration for approval before the county can open bidding. That part of the review process, involving state and federal agencies, is out of the hands of local officials, though Weston-Chien said she expects an approval soon.

Once it gets federal/state go-ahead, the county will take at least a month to solicit bids before reviewing them to select a firm.

That will open a final approval process, culminating in a vote by the county commissioners. Weston-Chien said she hopes construction can begin in spring or early summer.

She and Cook anticipate the greenway will open for use in spring or early summer 2016.

Greenway detours

Some existing sections of the Toby Creek Greenway through the UNCC campus and the connecting Mallard Creek Greenway – which leads under Interstate 85 to University Research Park – are closed because of construction projects unrelated to the greenway.

Detours guide pedestrians and cyclists around the affected areas. Detour sections may not be passable for those with physical disabilities. Except for the affected sections, both greenways are open and accessible to all for the rest of their length.