Five months ago, City Manager Marcus Jones left City Council members "stunned", "outraged" and "embarrassed" by announcing the Cross Charlotte Trail would be $77 million short of the funding needed for completion. Last night, Council applauded Mr. Jones and the rest of staff as he announced $54.4 million in his proposed budget to complete the seven unfunded segments already in the plan or design stage. Jones also promised $2 million over the next two years to study and plan the final two segments of the City's signature pedestrian project.
The future of the Cross Charlotte Trail has remained in limbo since Mr. Jones’ announcement this past January. Council delayed a vote to award the contract for the South Charlotte Connector, effectively halting progress. Engineers and staff scampered to bring about makeshift solutions to complete the trail.
Ideas such as way-finding signs and "bike boulevards" replaced multi-use paths and a place-making program. Some council members talked tough on fiscal responsibility and others questioned why wealthier parts of town had their sections funded while some northern sections hadn’t even been designed yet.
After taking a step back (and some heavy lobbying from groups like Carolina Thread Trail, Sustain Charlotte and others), Council finally decided to bring back the vote to award construction for the South Charlotte Connector in February.
Charlotte Running Club spoke in favor of awarding the contract at Febuary's meeting, after which a spirited discussion ensued. In the thick of it, Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera asked City Manager Jones: What happens to the rest of the trail if it takes years to find out the cost of just one section? Jones responded with a promise to provide the money needed to fund the study of the missing segments of trail, a commitment he followed through with last night… and more.
By providing funding for the seven designed segments of trail, Jones’ budget would complete the majority of the trail the City promised voters years ago. By studying the final sections from Mallard Creek Church Rd. to the Cabarrus County line, Jones commits to continuing work on those portions of the trail while appeasing budget hawks by not playing the guessing game that led to the initial cost miscalculation.
The budget process will continue over the next month, just in time for contract approval on the Brandywine to Tyvola section that would take the trail from Uptown all the way to Ballantyne and the South Carolina State line.
Article by: Franklin Keathley