Construction will begin in 2018 on more than 3.8 miles of downtown Lexington trails that will connect two major trail systems, Lexington officials said Tuesday.
The plan is for entire trail system to be completed in 2020.
The city released an updated construction time line and funding breakdown for the downtown trail system — Town Branch Commons — during a Tuesday Urban County Council work session. The estimated cost is $35.5 million for Town Branch Commons, which will connect Town Branch Trail with the Legacy Trail.
The city recently learned it had received a $14.1 million federal infrastructure grant — a key piece of funding for the long-discussed trail that will generally follow Town Branch, a creek flowing under much of downtown Lexington. Other funding sources include city bond funding, state and federal transportation grants and a low-interest state loan.
The city has already committed $10 million in bond money. The Urban County Council will be asked to approve an additional $1.8 million next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2017. Lexington had asked for $15 million for its federal infrastructure grant. When it accepted the federal grant, the city agreed it would make up the difference with the $1.8 million.
Not included in Town Branch Commons is a proposed green space adjacent to the downtown convention center and Rupp Arena that will be privately funded. That area, expected to cost $30 million, will be called Town Branch Park.
“Its maintenance will be privately funded through an endowment,” said Jonathan Hollinger, a senior city administrator.
In addition to funding the trail through downtown from Oliver Lewis Way to the Issac Murphy Memorial Art Garden at Midland Avenue and Third Street, the $35 million will finish the remaining section of the Town Branch Trail through the distillery district on Manchester Street as well as a section that will connect the Town Branch Trail to the existing Legacy Trail on Newtown Pike.
“It will be a continuous 20-mile trail,” Hollinger said.
Councilwoman Amanda Bledsoe said many of her constituents had raised questions about why the downtown project cost so much.
Hollinger said urban trail systems can be more expensive than rural trails because of an assortment of issues including but not limited to moving or burying utilities and buying right-of-way.
The council is expected to vote soon on a memorandum of understanding among the city, the Lexington Center Corp., the newly created downtown management district and Blue Grass Community Foundation. That memorandum is the first step to outlining the roles and duties of each of the parties of the project. The Lexington Center oversees the convention center and Rupp Arena and owns the land for the Town Branch Park.
A contract with Blue Grass Community Foundation to raise private funds for the park is not part of the memorandum of understanding. That contract will be approved later, Hollinger said. The council approved a $180,000 contract to raise private funds last year. Bluegrass officials said in June they have not yet raised any private funds because donors wanted to make sure the project was going to happen before pledging funds. They were also waiting for the memorandum of understanding to be approved.
Hollinger said it’s likely construction on a section of trail along Midland Avenue will be the first part constructed. That section was funded through state and federal transportation grants that need to be spent soon.