BY BETH MUSGRAVE,Â email@example.com
Lexington has received a $14.1 million federal grant that will pay for the Town Branch Trail from South Forbes Street to Midland and Third streets, city and federal officials announced Tuesday.
The $14.1 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant is a competitive grant for infrastructure projects offered through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The grant will be used to finish a section of the Town Branch Trail from South Forbes Road on Manchester Road through the Distillery District. The grant will also be used to pay for portions of a more than 2Â 1/2-mile section of the trail downtown from Oliver Lewis Way to to the Issac Murphy Memorial Art Garden on Third Street.
The 2Â 1/2-mileÂ section is called the Town Branch Commons, which is part of the overall Town Branch Trail. Other funding to build the commons includes nearly $7 million in state and federal transportation grants and $10 million in city bond money. Additionally, the city is pursuing a $5.6 million low-interest loan from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority to pay for the trail and enhanced streetscape, such as plants and benches.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who pushed for the grant, said the $14.1 million will make the project â€” and the dream of connecting the Town Branch and Legacy trails â€” a reality.
â€œTo win a grant like this we had to overcome some really tough competition,â€ Gray said. â€œItâ€™s exciting news for a project that has so much transformative potential for the city. It just shows that hard work and a good vision can pay off. Sometimes we need to be patient but persistent.â€
Gray praised U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell for helping the city make its case with federal transportation officials. Gray also thanked U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, a staffer for President Barack Obama. Barr wrote several letters in support of the project.
Dowell Hoskins Squire, Lexingtonâ€™s environmental and public works commissioner, said the city recently released a bid for the design work for the 2Â 1/2-mileÂ commons. A design firm will likely be selected sometime in late summer. Construction likely wonâ€™t begin until spring 2018.
Squire said the city had asked for $15.9 million but received $14.1 million. That leaves a potential gap of $1.8 million.
â€œThe plan is for the mayor to request that $1.8 million in fiscal year 2018,â€ Squire said. The city has already set aside $10 million for the project.
Van Meter Pettit, president of Town Branch Trail Inc., a nonprofit that spearheaded efforts to start the Town Branch Trail, said Tuesday that he was â€œthrilled to deathâ€ the city secured the federal funding. When completed, the Town Branch and Legacy trails will make commuting to downtown by bike much safer.
â€œIf this does what itâ€™s supposed to do, it will fund a linkage from Masterson Station all the way to Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden on Third Street,â€ Pettit said. â€œThere are neighborhoods and commercial properties that are really going to have amazing access to downtown via bikes or walking. It will make bicycle commuting plausible.â€