The City of Oak Ridge has received a $1.2 million grant that it can use for the proposed Rails to Trails project.
The executive board of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization approved the grant in October, said Ellen Zavisca, senior transportation planner.
It could be used for project planning and property acquisition for the Rails to Trails project, and possibly to start construction, said Jon Hetrick, Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Department director.
Hetrick said the grant was awarded by TPO, but it’s actually a Tennessee Department of Transportation grant. The city is entering into a contract with TDOT for the grant, and the Oak Ridge City Council could consider accepting the grant in July.
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson briefly mentioned the $1.2 million grant during a budget presentation to City Council members on Tuesday of this week. The city would administer the $1.2 million grant but would have to follow certain TDOT requirements.
The Rails to Trails project would convert a few miles of former railway that runs through the center of Oak Ridge into a bicycle and pedestrian trail. The railway runs from Melton Lake Drive in east Oak Ridge; past Jefferson Middle School and near the Hank’s Market shopping center in central Oak Ridge; and to the Y-12 National Security Complex.
It would need to be integrated into adjacent neighborhoods, and upgrades could be required at intersections with traffic signals, said Kathryn Baldwin, Oak Ridge Community Development director. There could be trailheads at Elza Gate Park and in Hendrix Creek, near the Woodland neighborhood. There is a question about how those who would use the trail would cross the busy intersection at South Illinois Avenue and Scarboro Road/Lafayette Drive, including those commuting to work at Y-12.
There are other neighborhoods that would be close to the converted railway, including Emory Heights and Briarcliff.
The total cost of the project isn’t known yet. Earlier this year, Baldwin said some private funds or additional grants could be required.
The former railway property is now owned by CSX. A sale price is not yet clear.
On Friday, Hetrick said the last two-year CSX appraisal has expired. That appraisal was for a little more than $1.5 million, Hetrick said. He said CSX would need to do a re-appraisal, and then the city will have to negotiate with CSX.
Tracks and ties would still have to be removed from the former railway, which sits on a gravel bed. Fine stone could be laid down on the railway bed initially, and it could be paved later, Baldwin said. Tracks have already been removed from a few locations: across Melton Lake Drive in east Oak Ridge and across South Illinois Avenue in south-central Oak Ridge.
Baldwin said the trail could be used by a variety of people, including children walking or biking to Jefferson Middle School.
“That makes for healthier kids,” Baldwin said.
Others could also use the trail on weekends and nights, and some could use it to walk or bike to the grocery store or other businesses in central Oak Ridge, or to travel to the city’s waterfront along Melton Lake Drive.
Hetrick said the city received the grant sooner than expected.
“It’s moving forward,” he said. “We are continuing to move ahead.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2017 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.