Smithfield’s bike trail costs rise to $6 million

Published 1:14 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Drainage issues on South Church Street will nearly double Smithfield’s park-to-park trail costs, according to a project engineer.

Isle of Wight County completed its 3.1-mile portion of the asphalt bicycle and pedestrian trail, spanning Nike Park and Battery Park roads, for $8.6 million in 2021. Last year, the Smithfield Town Council voted to move forward with a town-funded segment that will extend the path down South Church Street and across the Cypress Creek Bridge to connect Nike Park with Windsor Castle Park.

As of 2019, Smithfield’s 1-mile segment was projected to cost up to $3.3 million. Now, it’s projected to cost about $6 million.

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At the Town Council’s March 28 committee meetings, engineer Andrew Farthing of Kimley-Horn and Associates said the two-lane stretch of South Church Street where the path would run is presently too flat to accommodate curb-and-gutter drainage infrastructure for the multi-use path.

To allow water to flow off the road, rather than pool in its center, the road would need to be reconstructed with artificially created high and low points. Since Smithfield is now faced with having to rebuild the road anyway, the town is now looking at widening the road to include a center turn lane.

The Virginia Department of Transportation, Farthing said, had looked into creating a center turn lane in 2008. Were the town to apply to VDOT’s SmartScale program this summer, the project would be evaluated for state funding based on its cost versus regional benefit and, if approved, would be placed into the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s six-year improvement plan.

Town Manager Michael Stallings, however, isn’t optimistic about the project’s chances of receiving state funding through Smart Scale’s competitive process.

Another option the Town Council is considering is using its remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover the added cost.

Congress last year passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which provided the town $8.7 million. The town has already committed $5.3 million of that money, leaving $3.4 million unallocated.

It will likely take several months just to complete the design work on the proposed road widening and get VDOT to sign off on the new plans. The three-lane option would entail the town needing only a few feet more of right-of-way.

“At the end of the day, we’re getting more than just a bike trail,” Stallings said. “We’re getting a brand new road.”