(Information from Oak Ridge Today, a WYSH news partner) The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday unanimously approved a $1.5 million contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation that is expected to allow a former railroad to be converted into a greenway.
The so-called Rails to Trails project will convert about 4.85 miles of unused CSX railroad into a pedestrian and bicycle trail.
The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) approved $1.224 million for the project in October 2016 through the Transportation Alternative Program, or TAP. There is a local 20 percent match of $306,000, which would be provided by the City of Oak Ridge. The combined funding from the TAP award and the local match is $1.53 million.
The overall cost of the Rails to Trails project isn’t clear. The property has not been purchased, and the grant does not include purchase.
The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) recognizes the Oak Ridge Rails to Trails project as a regional effort and officials in Oak Ridge believe that as funds become necessary, will appropriate those once more pricing information becomes available.
The Rails to Trails project was part of a bicycle and pedestrian plan adopted in 2011, along with sidewalks along Oak Ridge Turnpike.
A CSX appraisal has put the property purchase price at $1.5 million. CSX got the property from the U.S. Department of Energy in 1962 for $1. According to our partners at Oak Ridge Today, donating the property is unlikely, as they have told city leaders that since it is a publicly-traded company and this is an asset, that solution might not satisfy its shareholders.
Oak Ridge Today reports that among the considerations that officials will look at are the accessibility to trails at trailheads, integrating the trail into neighborhoods, and street crossings.
An environmental impact statement would be required because this project would use federal highway money.
The TAP award allows the city to start a master plan and engineering and design efforts. The master plan will examine connections to residential, commercial, and workforce centers, while the engineering and design work will provide firm construction costs and a phasing schedule.
For more, visit http://oakridgetoday.com/2017/07/12/council-approves-contract-tdot-rails-trails-project/.