The Anniston City Council approved Tuesday an agreement with the state Department of Transportation for $75,000 to buy property along the former Norfolk Southern rail line. The $60,000 in federal money was approved through the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Anniston’s share is $15,000.
“That will not cover all of it,” said City Planner Toby Bennington, although he’s not sure how much property acquisition might cost the city.
City officials will have to work with more than 280 property owners along the trail’s right-of-way. Some have expressed hope that many property owners will simply deed the small stretches of property over to the city during the process.
“First, we’re going to ask for donations before we ever talk about buying anything,” Mayor Vaughn Stewart said.
The mayor said some property owners may not even be aware the property along the right of way had reverted from the railroad to adjoining landowners when it abandoned the rail line.
Stewart also said the city hopes to partner with other entities such as the county, which owns part of the land along the trail as well.
The partnership with the state is a good initial step, the mayor said, but the city will continue to apply to the MPO for money as well as other sources for funding to complete the trail.
“We want to exhaust every option we can possibly get access to,” Bennington said.
Under a bicycle integration plan approved by the council two weeks ago, the city will construct the remainder of the trail in three phases, beginning with the southernmost mile from the multi-modal station to 15th Street, a project of more than $563,500 that includes amenities along that section. The second phase, scheduled for four to six years out, will include the northernmost 2.63 miles of the trail and a .72-mile spur into McClellan at a cost of nearly $893,000. Construction of the middle 2.67 miles of the trail is slated for years seven through nine at a cost of nearly $770,000.
At present, the city is waiting for the completion of a survey of the railroad’s former easement, which will determine start and end points and connections to other parts of the city, as well as topography and other geographic features. Bennington said once the survey is complete, the city can begin property acquisition and preliminary engineering work for the project. He had no timeline for these phases of the work.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.