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Charleston officials consider design companies for Boulevard bicycle trail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston officials soon will select a firm to design a two-lane bicycle trail to be built along Kanawha Boulevard on the West Side. 

Members of a steering committee working on the project interviewed four Kanawha County-based firms interested in designing the project Thursday, City Manager David Molgaard said.

The members of the committee reviewed the qualifications for firms that had been included on a short list of prospective designers.

"We're working to determine what firm would be best suited to design this project for us," he said.

City leaders received permission from the state Division of Highways to use money originally set aside to rehabilitate an aging train trestle across the Kanawha River for use by bicyclists and pedestrians.

The $1.7 million Congressional earmark did not cover the costs associated with rehabilitating the trestle, a project that's been estimated to cost around $20 million.

The city also may use about $700,000 secured by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

"We hope to identify a firm to design the bike trail by sometime next week," Molgaard said.

The city still will have to advertise for bids for construction of the path.

"I would be really surprised if we see any construction start before next summer or fall," Molgaard said.

Although the funds originally allocated to the trestle rehabilitation will be used for the bike trail, some city leaders still hope to convert the span across the Kanawha into an avenue for bikes.

Councilman Tom Lane, an at-large Republican, has been a staunch supporter of the train trestle project for some time. He said he understands the city cannot afford to convert it into a bike bridge at this time.

"But I do not consider the train trestle project dead," Lane said.

Instead, Lane prefers to look at the Kanawha Boulevard bike path as part of the overall master plan to create more bike paths throughout the city. This plan would eventually include rehabilitation of the more than 100-year-old trestle.

"Bike paths along Kanawha Boulevard and MacCorkle Avenue are the heart of the infrastructure for that plan," Lane said.

A lot will go into designing the proposed two-lane bike path, Molgaard said.

The design firm will have to consider things like how it would affect storm water runoff and how to separate the bike lanes from the four lanes for motorists.

The plan is to build the two-lane bike path along the river side of the Boulevard from Magic Island to Patrick Street. However, the city may not have the funds to construct the entire length, Molgaard said.

"We're hoping to have the resources to do the whole length from Magic Island to Patrick Street," he said. "But we may have to break it up into two or more phases, depending on the cost."

A concrete barrier would be used to separate the bike path from the eastbound lanes of Kanawha Boulevard. The existing bike/walking path along Kanawha Boulevard would be left alone.

City leaders believe they can build the bike path next to the existing trail without eliminating any of the Boulevard's four lanes.

This could be accomplished by reducing the width of the lanes from 12 feet to 10.5 feet and eliminating the 4-foot-wide grass median, Molgaard has said previously.

The 7-foot-wide parking lanes along the sidewalk side would remain, except in spots near Delaware Avenue.

The four firms interviewed on Thursday were: E.L. Robinson Engineering of Cross Lanes; TRC Engineers Inc. of Charleston; Michael Baker Jr. Inc. of Charleston; and Modjeski and Masters of Charleston.

Eight firms expressed interest.

The committee members will negotiate the price for designing the trail once they have determined which firm is best suited for the project, Molgaard said.       

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon. 

 


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