Bike trail gets costlier

Published 12:39 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

But county says it must build it to protect grant money

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Nike Park bike trail is slated to move forward while work on Route 620 (Broadwater Road), is being shelved until other funding options can be explored.

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead Thursday to use funding that was slated for Route 620, among other sources, to make up a $2 million shortfall in funding— or 50 percent over budget — for the bike trail.

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The original budget for the two sections of the bike trail construction was $4.1 million, but bids received, after two attempts, were about $2 million over that amount, according to Isle of Wight County Project Manager Jamie Oliver. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Meanwhile, as a separate project, the Route 620 improvements had come in $3.8 million over budget, leaving Isle of Wight with a match of $5.5 million rather than the $1.7 million originally anticipated, Oliver said.

The 1.8 miles of improvements along Route 620 include widening lanes and adding shoulders, said Oliver, adding that the project was based on the roadway being considered an economic development corridor, as well as concerns about safety. 

Route 620, sections of which are named Broadwater Road and Four Square Road, has an average of 1,800 to 2,600 vehicles a day, depending on the section of road, which stretches from Courthouse Highway (Route 258) to Route 460 in Southampton County, according to VDOT traffic data for 2016. Currently, crews are in the midst of completing the addition of turn lanes at Route 258 and Route 260.

And while the county can cancel and revisit the Route 620 project, it does not have that option for the bike trail. If cancelled, the county would be out about $1.6 million, according to Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson.

Of that amount, $1 million was in state and federal reimbursements, with the remainder paid out in expenses associated with acquiring rights-of-way along Nike Park and Battery Park roads, Robertson said.

If cancelled, Isle of Wight would have to repay the $1 million, Robertson said.

Another consideration is that Isle of Wight is bumping up against some deadlines, such as environmental permits set to expire next year, said Robertson.

The bike trail funding shortfall will be made up with monies that had been set aside in the next three fiscal years for Route 620, as well as leftover funds from other projects, or bids that come in under budget, Robertson said.

Moving forward on the bike trail will not require the county to borrow any additional funds, Robertson said.

Meanwhile, Isle of Wight is going to request a safety study on Route 620 — funded by VDOT — as a tool to explore other improvement options, Oliver said.

Earlier this year, the Board had given County Administrator Randy Keaton the authorization to move funds between existing projects without requiring a resolution or other formal action, Oliver said, adding that if future budget amendments are needed, they will be brought to the Board for consideration.

Isle of Wight County’s portion of the bike trail runs from Carrollton Nike Park along Nike Park Road and along Battery Park Road to the intersection of South Church Street. The ultimate plan is to have a third portion run from that intersection to the Cypress Creek Bridge, creating a pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare from Nike Park to Windsor Castle Park and downtown Smithfield.

The project also includes a bridge across Jones Creek along Nike Park Road. The route, which has been in place for years, has not changed, Oliver said.

Once funding is in place and the contracts have been awarded, construction can begin this fall and take about a year to complete, Oliver said.

Smithfield’s section three

The town of Smithfield has ordered a study of three possible routes connecting Isle of Wight’s portion of the trail to the Cypress Creek Bridge at a cost of $20,000, according to Town Manager Peter Stephenson.

That study is expected to be done by the end of the year, he said during Thursday’s Isle of Wight and Smithfield intergovernmental committee meeting.

The town had also committed to putting about $1 million of its VDOT urban funds to the project in 2013.

However, the town is now required to build a turn lane at the new $4 million Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex before it can open, said Stephenson, adding that the cost of construction for the turn lane remains unknown.

The town has about $2.1 million in its urban fund, including about $1 million that can be used for that portion of the trail, Stephenson said.

“We’ve kept that in consideration all this time. We’ve done everything we could to protect funding,” Stephenson said, adding that the turn lane for the sports complex now has priority.  

The town and county are also poised to sign a memorandum of understanding concerning the sports complex, and the document states that Smithfield will build a sidewalk or pedestrian connection from Westside Elementary School to the sports complex at its expense.

Stephenson said earlier this month that the money for the sidewalk would come from the urban fund.

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice asked town officials about helping Isle of Wight County pay for the portion of trail, known as section 1, which runs along Battery Park Road and is within the town limits. 

Smithfield Town Councilman Andrew Gregory said the decision in 2013 was to pay for section three — the portion from the intersection of Battery Park Road and South Church Street to the Cypress Creek Bridge.

“That’s the most value to town residents,” he said.

Grice wanted to know if the town would consider providing some funds for the Battery Park Road portion in exchange for revisiting section three at a later date.

Stephenson said that depends upon VDOT.

The bike trail

Efforts to build a bike and pedestrian trail from Nike Park to Smithfield have been underway since 2006. The plan was to increase connectivity throughout the county.  {/mprestriction}