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City moves forward on Boulevard bike trail

Charleston City Manager David Molgaard will recommend city council approve a contract with TRC Engineers Inc. to design a two-lane bike path along Kanawha Boulevard.

In late January members of a steering committee interviewed representatives from four Kanawha County-based firms interested in designing the bike trail from Magic Island west to Patrick Street.

The proposed price tag for designs is $280,000, Molgaard said.  

The steering committee members opted to go with Charleston-based TRC Engineers Inc. because of the firm's vision, he said.

TRC was the only firm to propose a bike path with a green buffer between the bike path and the boulevard, Molgaard said.

"Our thinking going in was we would have to build the bike lanes on the vehicular side of the large concrete curb that parallels Kanawha Boulevard," Molgaard said.

However, TRC's design would suggest that the light poles along the trail be moved toward the traffic lanes, he said. The bike lanes then could be right next to the pedestrian walkway that lines the south side of Kanawha Boulevard, Molgaard said.

The large concrete curb that currently separates Kanawha Boulevard from the existing walking and bike path would have to be eliminated, he said.

"This is much more appealing when you think about it," Molgaard said about TRC's concept.

The proposed green space between Kanawha Boulevard and the bike path wouldn't be just visually appealing; it also would serve a functional purpose.

It would keep cars from veering onto the bike path and bikes from entering the traffic lanes. It also would absorb some storm water, he said.

Bollards could be used to separate the two-lane bike path from the walking trail, which would be left as it is, Molgaard said.  

City leaders recognize that all four lanes of Kanawha Boulevard would have to be narrowed from 12 to 10.5 feet, Molgaard said. The grass median between the westbound and eastbound lanes would be eliminated, he said.

The plan is to eliminate as few parking spaces along Kanawha Boulevard as possible, Molgaard said. The design firm will have to deal with what he called "choke points" where the lanes would shift.

"There's going to be a choke point under the railroad trestle," he said. "They'll (TRC Engineers) have to deal with that."

However, the firm could add parking spaces to a large triangular space about halfway between Magic Island and Patrick Street to make up for any spots lost along the boulevard.

The city plans to spend about $1.7 million in federal funds on the bike path. The money originally was allocated to rehabilitate a railroad trestle over the Kanawha River for use as a bike and pedestrian bridge.

However, that project came with a price tag of around $20 million.

The city also could tap another $700,000 obtained by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for the bridge project, Molgaard said.

The funds for the design will be taken from the $1.7 million, he said.

If the project ends up costing more than the city has available, it will have to be built in phases, Molgaard said.

Charleston City Council must approve the contract before it is officially awarded.

It will take about four months to design the trail. The construction phase could take as little as five months, he said.

"We could have a new bike path by the end of the year," Molgaard said.  

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


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