Fayette County

Lexington gets $3.2 million grant but not larger one for Town Branch Commons

Part of the presentation on the new Town Branch trail. The Council will hear more Tuesday May 19, 2015 about a proposal for a new linear downtown park that will connect the city's two main trail systems. The city is applying for a $13 million federal transportation grant and Mayor Jim Gray is asking for $10 million for the project in his proposed city budget. Image: SCAPE/Landscape Architecture
Part of the presentation on the new Town Branch trail. The Council will hear more Tuesday May 19, 2015 about a proposal for a new linear downtown park that will connect the city's two main trail systems. The city is applying for a $13 million federal transportation grant and Mayor Jim Gray is asking for $10 million for the project in his proposed city budget. Image: SCAPE/Landscape Architecture SCAPE/Landscape Architecture

Plans for a 2.5-mile linear park through downtown Lexington got a boost Monday with the announcement of $3.2 million in federal transportation funding. But the city learned later in the day that it did not receive a $13 million federal grant that it had applied for.

The money is to be used for infrastructure on a half-mile section of Town Branch Commons along Midland Avenue.

"This trail is a critical link in a visionary urban trail project that will connect downtown Lexington with area neighborhoods, parks and historic sites," Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen said at Thoroughbred Park in announcing the $3.2 million grant. "With this funding, we take another giant stride toward the realization of a shared vision for a greenway network and linear park through and uniting this community."

The money is from the state Department of Transportation but is part of the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. Money from that program may be used for alternative transportation projects, including pedestrian and bike trails.

Gallery: Town Branch Walk

The $3.2 million is in addition to $10 million the city has set aside to help build the infrastructure or spine of the trail that is proposed to connect Town Branch Trail to the Legacy Trail. The park is slated to have a network of pools, fountains, rain gardens and pocket parks from Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden on East Third Street to Cox Street near Rupp Arena.

After learning the city did not receive the $13 million federal grant for which it had applied, Jeff Fugate, president and chief operating officer of the Lexington Downtown Development Authority, said the city would pursue other funding to obtain the $24 million it needs for design and construction of the initial infrastructure. The total cost of the 2.5-mile stretch is expected to be $75 million. The Downtown Development Authority is overseeing the project.

Mayor Jim Gray and city officials have said that if the city didn't receive the $13 million grant this year, it would reapply next year. Some Urban County Council members have expressed reservations about spending $10 million in bond money on the park until the city receives that grant.

Fugate said only one Kentucky project — in Louisville — received one of the federal grants after three years of applying to the program.

"We never envisioned that one single source of money will get this done," he said. "We will continue to apply for other grant money."

But Fugate said the city must move forward on the Midland Avenue portion of the project. The $3.2 million has to be spent in a certain amount of time, he said.

It will pay for design and construction of the 12-foot-wide trail, and traffic lanes and curbs along Midland Avenue between Main and Third streets. The state owns and maintains Midland Avenue, which is part of U.S. 60.

Also, the Urban County Council has approved $180,000 to hire the Blue Grass Community Foundation to oversee private fundraising for Town Branch Commons. The city hopes to raise $50 million from private and corporate donors for pocket parks that are part of the project.

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