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Money issues stall PATH bridge

Oct. 06, 2013 @ 08:36 AM

HUNTINGTON – Those involved in the construction of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health have always described it as a necklace that links Huntington’s “jewels” — its parks and major employers.

With two trail sections in Guyandotte and Harveytown complete and a third in the West End now almost finished, there is now a push to make the first connection between parks and major employers via the multi-use trail system. The estimated cost of the project, however, has risen during the past year and needs more funding to move forward.

The proposal calls for construction of a pedestrian bridge that would be built across Hal Greer Boulevard near 13th and Columbia avenues on the north end of Cabell Huntington Hospital’s campus. On the western side of the bridge, a walking and bicycling path would run along Columbia Avenue and go past the Erma Ora Byrd Clinical Center on its way to Ritter Park. The specific route to Ritter Park has not been selected yet.

The bridge itself is estimated to cost approximately $3 million, or roughly $750,000 more than has been secured for it, while the trail from the bridge to Ritter Park would cost another $700,000.

The Nick J. Rahall Transportation Institute and the City of Huntington received a $1.8 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant along with a $450,000 contribution from the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation for the bridge last year. They also obtained a second CMAQ grant and local matching funds totaling $1.13 million to cover the cost of trails, the Ritter Park connector among them.

Officials thought the grants and matching funds would be enough to pay for the project, but the bridge’s design phase revealed the project would cost more than the money on hand, said Bob Plymale, a state senator from Wayne County and executive director of the Rahall Transportation Institute. Officials also had to use some of the CMAQ grant funds for trails to complete the first phase of PATH, Plymale said.

With approximately $2.1 million on hand, RTI and the city are now seeking $1.35 million in additional grant funds, which would require a $330,000 local match, to complete the project.

While Cabell Huntington Hospital has offered to donate land it owns on the west side of Hal Greer Boulevard and along Columbia Avenue, the bridge’s landing area on the east side along 13th Avenue would require the city to purchase additional land. However, it would not be done through eminent domain, said Charles Holley, the city’s director of development and planning.

“We’ve made it clear that we will never use eminent domain to construct any parts of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health,” Holley said. “Right now, our biggest issue with the bridge is the funding gap. If we can overcome that, we’re confident that we can work something out so that we can build the bridge at our preferred location.”

Last year, the city hired Edward Tucker Architects to design the bridge and select a location. Architect Phoebe Patton Randolph said the general location of the bridge has always been somewhere just to the north of the hospital on Hal Greer Boulevard because it provides a safe path of travel for pedestrians between the hospital and the Byrd Clinical Center. Building it near 13th Avenue also makes sense because the street is the most logical route for PATH to extend to Spring Hill Cemetery, another desirable link of the trail system, Plymale said.

Plymale also believes the pedestrian bridge will alleviate pedestrian safety concerns along the busy corridor. Those concerns were heightened last month when a Chesapeake, Ohio, woman was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing Hal Greer Boulevard the night of Sept. 26. She was returning to Cabell Huntington Hospital, where her husband was being treated for an undisclosed illness.

“I think there are some temporary measures we could agree upon with the Division of Highways like a crosswalk, flashing lights or railings along the sidewalks, but a pedestrian bridge is the ultimate solution because it will get people off of the actual roadway and it won’t impede traffic flow,” Plymale said.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

 

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