Grants will help Lexington with trolleys, trails

Trolleys are expected to be circulating in downtown Lexington once again, thanks to a federal grant announced Thursday.

The $1,212,800 grant, which will go toward the purchase of four 29-foot replica trolleys, was one of four federal grants totaling $2,089,950, announced by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. All the grants will help improve the quality of life in Lexington, he said.

Lexington is also getting $365,000 for illuminated street signs; $448,150 for the Brighton Rail Trail Bridge; and $64,000 for the local Share the Road Campaign, which promotes bicycling and walking safety on roadways.

"Quality of life encompasses every aspect of a community," Beshear said at a press conference at the Marriott Griffin Gate Hotel, which was attended by several state and local officials.

"This funding will help us move forward in the process to implement the downtown circulators," LexTran spokesman Dave Riggins said of the trolley money. "We still need to identify other funding sources."

LexTran, which will operate the trolleys, will have to come up with $303,000 in matching money for the trolleys, LexTran assistant general manager Jared Forte said. In addition to that, LexTran still needs funding sources for the approximately $500,000 per year it will cost to operate the trolley service, he said.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Riggins said.

LexTran's goal is to have the trolleys operating before the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Forte said. He said it will take a year to a year-and-a-half for the trolleys to be manufactured.

A consultant has recommended that the trolley service consist of two routes, one running along Main and Vine streets, between Triangle Park and Thoroughbred Park; the other running between the University of Kentucky campus and Second Street, primarily along Limestone and Upper streets.. Those routes could be expanded later, with one including the new entertainment district, Riggins said.

Jay McChord, a member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, said he was excited about the money for the Brighton Rail Trail Bridge.

"First off, I am excited any time that Lexington moves forward with trails and bike and pedestrian friendliness," he said. With $4 gasoline and ever-increasing obesity, people need more opportunities to get out of their cars, he said. Besides that, he said, the Bluegrass area has some of the world's most beautiful scenery, and "you can't enjoy that in your car."

The 184-foot span will connect two ends of the Brighton Rail Trail.

Lexington will spend the $365,000 grant on 71 signs that use light-emitting capacitors. The signs will be placed at 50 intersections.

"We (the city) will buy 14 more for eight other intersections," said Ron Herrington, director of traffic engineering for the Urban County Government.

"We'll probably continue the program to other roadways as monies are available," he said, noting that even more of the internally lit signs are already included in other local road projects.