WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington is finally able to move forward with creating more pedestrian paths, in the works for nearly nine years. Initial allocations fell short, so to move forward with construction of three multi-use paths, the city was awarded an additional $2.4 million.
The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO), the transportation planning entity in the Cape Fear region, unanimously approved the funds at Wednesday’s board meeting. The money is allocated through WMPO’s Surface Transportation Block Grant, passed through N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
Along with the WMPO funds, the city must provide a 20% local match. It will cover its $600,000 share through leftover funds from the Kerr Avenue Bike Lane Sidewalks Project and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements Appropriation. The amounts from each source are $435,617 and $164,383, respectively.
While the three projects — Hooker Road multi-use path, Hinton Avenue multi-use path and Wrightsville Avenue/Greenville Avenue intersection improvements — are separate undertakings, they are being bid on as one. The goal is to expedite the remaining design and construction phases for potential construction cost savings, according to the city’s submitted resolution for approval.
All three projects will enhance the city bike and pedestrian network. Ninety percent of the design phases are complete, including feasibility analyses, environmental permitting, coordination with utility companies, and ongoing collaboration with NCDOT and WMPO to meet federal funding requirements, according to city spokesperson Dylan Lee.
The projects were allocated roughly $2.3 million in fiscal years 2013-2014; however, a complete redesign was needed once the city identified utility conflicts, Lee added. Initial cost estimates were based on preliminary plans and the scope of the work has morphed significantly over time.
“It was determined that the design would simply not be cost effective due to the significant utility relocation and stormwater improvement needs,” he said. “Therefore, the alignment of the paths was modified for better constructability and cost efficiencies.”
While the redesign has had an impact on project schedule, the federal funding requirements have also presented a hang-up.
“In addition, all city multi-use and sidewalk paths involve extensive negotiations with multiple property owners to obtain easements,” Lee explained.
Last month, the city requested authorization for rights-of-way acquisitions, which will begin in March. The projects will be advertised for bid by October, with construction planned to start February 2023 and finish by November 2023.
For $1.2 million the city will construct an 8-foot-wide multi-use path along the 3,800 feet of Hooker Road from Wrightsville Avenue to Mallard Drive/Rose Avenue intersection. When complete, the Hooker Road path will connect UNCW and the Gary Shell Cross City Trail, as well as bicycle lanes along Wrightsville Avenue.
An additional $530,000 has been allocated for the creation of an 8-foot-wide multi-use path along Hinton Avenue from Park Avenue to Greenville Avenue. This route will be roughly half the length of the Hooker Road pathway.
“This [pathway] should help to address concerns in walking or cycling to Seagate Park/Eddy and Mary Haneman Park and enhance the use of the River to Sea Bikeway with the proposed connection at the intersection of Park Avenue and Hinton Avenue,” Lee explained.
The Wrightsville Avenue/Greenville Avenue project will provide bicycle lanes and sidewalks along the side of Greenville and Wrightsville avenues to Hinton Avenue. This will also include improvements to the intersection to “reduce pedestrian crossing distance and realign Greenville Avenue into the right-of-way,” according to Lee.
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