Lexington has received more than $2.7 million to build infrastructure for Town Branch Commons, a proposed 2-mile linear downtown trail and park.
Gov. Steve Beshear announced the funding — from a federal transportation grant — at a news conference at city hall Wednesday. The $2.7 million is in addition to $3.2 million in other transportation funding the state already has committed to the project.
That brings the total amount of state-contributed funds to $5.9 million. The city has set aside $10 million in bond money for the long-planned trail that will follow the path of the now-buried Town Branch and will connect the city’s two main trails — Town Branch and the Legacy — to downtown.
The total cost for infrastructure – the spine and the trail itself – is expected to be $24 million. In addition to state and local money, the city is trying to raise more than $50 million in private funds to build smaller pocket parks and water features. The city had applied for a federal transportation grant, but it was denied this year. The state money will help the city make up for the $13 million it had hoped to receive through that federal grant.
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Beshear said that the $2.7 million will be used to fund a portion of the trail along Vine Street. The bulk of that money will go to a much-needed pedestrian crossing on Vine Street near the Lexington Transit Authority. Currently, pedestrians must scale a concrete barrier and then dodge traffic. It will have a signalized pedestrian crossing, lighting upgrades and other features that will allow city buses and pedestrians to have a safe means to access the Lextran transit center.
Carrie Butler, LexTran’s general manager, said the Vine Street center averages 8,000 riders a day.
“It’s an everyday sight and too often a harrowing sight to see pedestrians walking between moving cars to get across Vine Street and finally climbing over a barrier divider to get into the transit center. We can do better than that – and we will,” Beshear said.
Jeff Fugate, the COO and president of the Lexington Downtown Development Authority, said the city was pursuing grants, private donations and other money to pay for the infrastructure portion of the trail, which will stretch from Third Street and Midland Avenue to the Cox Street parking lot behind Rupp Arena. The $3.2 million — which was announced this month — will be used for the Midland Avenue section. The $5.9 million in state money will pay for the infrastructure from Third Street down Midland, up Vine Street to Limestone.
“We are hoping that we will see construction start by the end of 2016,” Fugate said. The Downtown Development Authority is managing the project.
Mayor Jim Gray thanked Beshear — who will leave office in less than three weeks after eight years as governor — for his long-standing support of Lexington and the city’s trail system.
“Gov. Beshear has made great things happen in Lexington during his time in office,” Gray said. “Town Branch Commons will be a ribbon of Bluegrass running through our downtown. It will bring new opportunities for economic development, healthy exercise and transportation alternatives, including Lextran, bike and pedestrian improvements.”