Fayette County

New renderings of Town Branch Commons show trail, trees, bike paths

Rendering of Town Branch Commons in downtown Lexington, featuring an urban trail and separate bike lane with trees and shrubs that will dot the more than 2-mile section of the trail.
Rendering of Town Branch Commons in downtown Lexington, featuring an urban trail and separate bike lane with trees and shrubs that will dot the more than 2-mile section of the trail. SCAPE

New renderings of Town Branch Commons show an urban trail and a separate bike lane, with trees and shrubs that will dot the more than 2-mile downtown Lexington section of the trail.

The public will get an opportunity to view the renderings for downtown and the final sections of Town Branch Trail — roughly from Alexandria Drive to Oliver Lewis Way — at a public meeting Tuesday night at the Thomas Hunt Morgan House in downtown Lexington.

Plans for the downtown portion of Town Branch Trail — called Town Branch Commons — shows wide sidewalks constructed with pavers, a low wall to separate the pedestrian area from the bike lane and lots of trees. SCAPE, a firm based in New York, won an international competition to design Town Branch Commons in 2013.

The $40 million Town Branch Commons would be paid for through a combination of local, state and federal grants and loans. Parks —including a Central Park-like greenspace next to Rupp Arena — is to be paid for through private fundraising.

Mayor Jim Gray said Monday that Town Branch Commons “is not just a nice streetscape and park system through downtown. It’s a strip of history. It’s a connector of neighborhoods, people and public spaces. It’s green infrastructure that improves our water quality and our urban ecology. It’s a transportation network that can be used for far more than just recreation. It’s a huge step forward for bike and pedestrian safety in downtown Lexington.”

When completed in 2020, Town Branch Commons would link the city’s two most popular trail systems, Town Branch Trail and the Legacy Trail, creating a 22-mile continuous route. The proposed path of Town Branch Commons starts near Rupp Arena, then continues down Vine Street to Midland Avenue and stops at Third Street, the trailhead for the Legacy Trail.

Designs call for Vine Street to still have three lanes but the lane widths will shrink to approximately 10 feet. Vine Street’s lanes are as much as 12 feet wide in some areas. Lanes on Main Street also would be 10 feet. Decreasing the lane widths would provide space for a separate bike lane that would be approximately 10 feet across. The plans call for a small stone wall to be built between the bike lane and the pedestrian area. That stone wall will also have seating in some areas, said Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE.

There will be trees, grass and other planting along the path, Orff said. Planners are consulting with the University of Kentucky Department of Agriculture to determine the best species to plant. Street trees on Vine Street have long struggled to thrive.

“You have a wider and safer pedestrian zone,” Orff said of the design. “We also have a thread of the countryside that comes into the urban core.”

Orff said bioswales — which use natural elements such as grass and trees to clean water — and rain gardens will help with stormwater runoff throughout the trail’s path.

Jonathan Hollinger, Town Branch Commons project manager, said that in addition to shortening lane widths on Vine Street, there will be more traffic signals on Vine to make the area safer for pedestrians. One area that will get an additional crossing is in front of the Lextran Transit Center on Vine Street. Crossing Vine to get to the Transit Center has long been both dangerous and difficult.

Hollinger said state Transportation Cabinet engineers have signed off on the initial plans. Vine Street is a state-owned road designated as U.S. 60.

“Infrastructure work on the storm sewer and sanitary work will begin along Midland Avenue this year,” Hollinger said. “The bulk of the construction will be in 2018 and 2019. We will be complete by July 2020. Some sections will be open to pedestrian traffic by the end of 2019.”

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

If you go

What: Unveiling of final designs of Town Branch Trail from Alexandria to Oliver Lewis Way and new renderings for Town Branch Commons from Rupp Arena to Midland and Third Avenue.

Where: Thomas Hunt Morgan House, 210 North Broadway.

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.

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