In January, City Manager Marcus Jones told City Council the “additional funds” the city knew about since the conception of the Cross Charlotte Trail amounted to 77 million dollars. Last night, he presented Council with two options:
Option 1: Start over and re-evaluate how to build the trail in its entirety.
Option 2: Continue with “Shovel ready”, funded projects and create “bike boulevards” to direct the trail on to streets for the unfunded sections of “trail”.
Mayor Vi Lyles and six City Council members, Larken Egelston, Julie Eiselt, Tariq Bokhari, Gregg Phipps, Ed Driggs and Justin Harlow voted for Option 2. Even though Councilman Egelston described the option as a “band-aid solution” there is no set directive to complete any other portions of the trail as of yet.
If the vote holds true, the council will start awarding contracts for three upcoming sections of the trail: Tenth Street to Seventh Street, Brandywine to Tyvola, and the South Charlotte Connector.
First up: The South Charlotte Connector
The South Charlotte Connector is the cheapest, easiest and most efficient portion of Cross Charlotte Trail. It connects McMullen Creek Greenway to Little Sugar Creek Greenway to create a 15-mile trail network from Rae Road all the way to Tyvola Road. Over 76% of voters approved the .7 mile section of trail as a separate budget item from the rest of the Cross Charlotte Trail in the 2016 bond cycle. The trail will cost 2.3 million, within its 3 million dollar budget.
Council will have to move fast, though. Despite the South Charlotte Connector being a separate item from the original trail cost, under budget, and the most efficient section of trail, City Council refused to award the expiring contract last month. In a rare move, vendors extended the bid. If Council actually lets the bid expire the process will have to start over. Each bidding process costs thousands of dollars and takes months to complete.
Section 2: Brandywine to Tyvola
The "crown Jewel" of the Cross Charlotte Trail, this section will connect Park Road Shopping Center to the Tyvola Road trail-head. When complete, we'll have over 18 miles of Cross Charlotte Trail from Uptown to the South Carolina border. The aforementioned South Charlotte Connector would also allow access from Uptown to McMullen Creek Greenway. At a projected 17 million dollars, this is the most expensive dollar per mile trail. The low terrain and creek crossings through developed neighborhoods make both property and construction expensive. Council will vote later this year to award construction.
Section 3: 7th Street to 10th Street
Connecting Uptown Charlotte along this section closes the gap caused by 277 and US Hwy 74. While not a glamorous piece, it allows access from north of 12th Street at a price tag of $4.3 million.
Other items of note:
We also noted that even though Councilman Winston voted against option B, he still spoke in support of completing the trail in its original form. In addition, Dimple Ajmera made a simple, yet salient point when told sections of trail in low-income neighborhoods had low priority because there were no other trails to connect to… “We have no trails to connect to because no one builds trails in low income neighborhoods”.
At the end of the day we are almost exactly where we started in early January. On a positive note, we will likely have 18 miles of continuous trail in the next few years. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the trail will be completed in its original form.
Troubling to us was Council’s continued dismissal of “recreational usage” of the trail. Multiple times, council members argued which sections were for “transportation” and which ones were for “recreation." The dismissive nature of the argument justifies “bike boulevards” or “painted roads” designed for scooters and bikes instead of actual greenway sections that protect pedestrians. We will continue to point out that in a city of over 850,000 people, the Cross Charlotte Trail is for recreation, all non-vehicular modes of transportation and so much more.