Saturday, March 24, 2018

New walking paths for Columbus

The grant process for three new proposed segments of walking path was given the green light by the Columbus City Council at last week’s meeting.

Marissa Hauge, coordinator of the Stillwater County Economic Development Department and grant writer for the project, presented the plan to council members.

Hauge is applying for funding for the project from the Surface Transportation Block Grant program provided by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The grant program supplies funds for “transportation alternatives” including recreational trail program projects such as the one proposed for Columbus.

The Montana Department of Transportation pays 86.58 percent of the costs, leaving the remaining 13.42 percent to be provided as matching funds from the sponsor. In this case, those matching funds could come from the state or the city.

Due to stress on the state Highway Special Revenue Account, the city may have to pay a large portion of the matching funds. The City Council approved a commitment letter, promising to cover all required matching funds for the project, which totals $108,303. The final costs to the city may be less if state funding becomes available.

The three new segments would accompany the current walking path, known as the Keyser Creek Loop. Completed in 2016, the loop stretches from Quarry Street to the cemetery along Old Highway 10.

Each of the proposed segments have previously undergone a public input process and were adopted by the city as a portion of the Columbus Area Trails Plan.

The first segment would connect the Keyser Creek Loop with the existing downtown sidewalk system. This segment would include extending the sidewalk until North Second Street, and from that point creating an asphalt foot path that would connect with the loop at Quarry Street. The estimated total cost for the segment is $119,855, meaning the city would pay $16,085 as its matching share.

Also proposed is a path connecting downtown Columbus to Itch-Kep-Pe Park. The plan creates new sidewalk to connect existing sidewalk from the railroad crossing until the crosswalk by the Montana Silversmiths. At the crosswalk, the sidewalk would move to the other side of the road and continue until East Third Avenue South. From this point, an asphalt path would stretch to Itch-Kep-Pe Park on the east edge of the highway right-of-way at the base of the highway slope. The total cost for this segment is an estimated $279,283, with $34,474 of matching funds required.

The third segment would stretch from Pike Avenue all the way to the Granite Peak Park complex. Proposed sidewalks would connect with those existing from Diamond Street to north Ninth Street on Pike Avenue and from Pike Avenue to East Fourth Avenue North along North Ninth Street. An asphalt path would stretch from East Fourth Avenue North until the Granite Peak entrance, along the west side right-of-way of North Ninth Street. Estimated total costs for the third segment are $430,283, of which $57,744 would be matching funds.

While the council’s commitment letter will continue the grant writing process for the new trails, the projects will not begin for a couple of years due to a bidding procedure that must take place once the grant process is completed.