CSX alters pedestrian walking bridge plans

Fred Pace

March 26, 2014

MADISON – A plan for a new pedestrian walking bridge to connect the Town of Danville to the Wellness Trail in Madison has been altered due to right of way concerns by CSX Corporation.

The railway transportation company would not give permission to build the new bridge in the originally planned location because it was too close to railroad tracks owned by the company, Jerry Brown with Summit Engineering told the Boone County Commission at its regular session meeting on Tuesday, March 25 at the Boone County Courthouse Judicial Annex in Madison.

“When this bridge was planned we were unaware of a 1929 agreement with the town of Danville and CSX that if the old bridge ceased to exist the property and right of ways would go back to CSX,” Brown said.

In 2012, the county awarded a 20 percent matching grant of $175,000 for the project, which also received $700,000 in federal funding.

Seventh Senatorial District state Senator Ron Stollings worked with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and the West Virginia Division of Highways, to announce $4,802,314 in federal funds awarded to 27 projects as part of the 2011 Transportation Enhancement grant program.

The West Virginia Transportation Enhancement grant program is a Federal-Aid program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.

“The program provides annual funding, through the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation, to West Virginia communities for non-traditional transportation projects such as improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists through the construction of sidewalks and trails, preserving view sheds for our highways, preserving historic resources and stimulating tourism development,” the governor said at the time the projects were announced.

Boone County was awarded $700,000 for its new pedestrian walking bridge project, which was planned to be built at the location of an old bridge that connected Danville to Madison but was torn down sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, officials said.

The bridge was set for construction to begin in the spring of 2014, but the CSX issue has delayed the project and put it on hold for now.

An alternative location has been proposed, near Park Avenue, but still must receive the approval of CSX.

“We still believe this is a worthwhile and much-need project,” Brown said.

Stollings said this project will make for a more walkable community and healthier citizens.

“I want to applaud the commission and the two towns for working together and Summit Engineering for making the grant application very good,” Stollings said. “Boone County gives so much to the state of West Virginia and this is a small way to give back to a county that gives so much.”

The goal of the bridge project is to serve and provide the citizens of Danville and Madison communities’ walkability and create enhanced access to the Madison Wellness Trail, tennis courts, the new Chad Pennington Park, Madison Middle School, Scott High School and its facilities, and more, officials said.

“The bridge will serve both communities by providing pedestrians, bicyclists, wellness trail walkers, joggers and more additional activities,” Stollings said back when the grant funding and bridge project was announced. “Plus the expansion gives transportation options, creates a streetscape to enhance the beauty, and stimulate tourism development for the area”

Stollings says the goal of the walk bridge is linking Danville to West Madison is to make the communities more walkable.

“We’ve been trying to tie Danville into the Wellness Trail,” Stollings said. “This bridge would create access to Scott High School and its facilities, the Wellness Trail, tennis courts, the new Chad Pennington Park and more.”

Stollings said this is not only a public health issue, but also an economic development issue as well.

“Walkable communities are thriving, livable, sustainable places that give their residents more healthy choices and improved quality of life,” he said. “Increased walkability also helps improve resource responsibility, safety, physical fitness and social interaction.”

Stollings added that walkable communities are desirable places to live, work, learn, worship and play, and therefore a key component of smart growth.

“This project would be more than just a walk bridge,” Stollings said. “Walkable communities make pedestrian activity possible, thus expanding transportation options, and creating a streetscape that better serves a range of users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, wellness trail walkers and more.”

Walkable communities are nothing new. Outside of the last half-century, communities worldwide have created neighborhoods, communities, towns and cities premised on pedestrian access.

Many, like Stollings, believe that the personal and societal benefits of walkable communities create greater social interaction, improved personal and environmental health, and expanded citizen choices.

“This bridge encourages walking and offers many economic benefits by connecting these two communities,” Stollings said.

Madison Mayor Sonny Howell and Boone County commissioners Mickey Brown, Eddie Hendricks and Atholl Halstead all applauded the project and work done by the various groups to obtain funding.

“People come from all parts of the county to walk on this trail, so this new bridge and sidewalks will make it even better,” said Boone County Commission President Eddie Hendricks. “All the walking trail systems in the county, like the one at Water Ways Water Park, are doing well and we are glad to see people using them. We are hopeful this new location will be approved and the project can get started.”

• In other county commission news, the county approved a preliminary fiscal year 2014-2015 general budget of $10.5 million and $4.6 million coal budget by unanimous vote. The budget must now be submitted to the state for final approval. Details of the budget will be released once final approval is received by the state, county officials said.

• Boone County Administrator Jim Gore was approved and sworn in to the county’s Abandoned Buildings Committee.