The City of Lenoir recently received a $250,000 Recreational Trails Program grant to design and build three street crossings along the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVNHT) that runs through downtown.
The total project cost to design and build the crossings is $312,000. The grant is $250,000 and the City is matching the grant with $62,500 in local in-kind funding.
Part of the OVNHT runs along the old railroad bed through the City of Lenoir from North Main Street to Morganton Blvd. In 2019, the City started paving the "rail trail" using federal Community Development Block Grant funds. One major obstacle staff had to overcome was how to get pedestrians safely across three street crossings in downtown.
"We knew the crossing at Harper Avenue, Light Street, and College Avenue would be really long due to the angle of the rail bed to the roads," Public Works Director Jared Wright said. "We didn’t want pedestrians in the road for that long, and we thought we would need professional guidance to design and build those crossings."
City Council approved an engineering services agreement (ESA) with Mattern & Craig. Wright had discussed the rail trail crossing issues with Mattern & Craig and the firm approached the City with a funding opportunity through the Recreational Trails Program. Mattern & Craig helped the City apply for the grant, and the City received the full funding amount of $250,000 in December 2020.
"The RTP grant prioritizes making connections and filling in gaps in current trails, so this project was perfect," Wright said.
Now that the project has funding, City staff will work with engineers to identify the route for the crossings at each street, look at conceptual renderings, and then start with formal design. Wright expects to have final plans for the three crossings by the end of the year. Then, the City will bid the project for construction. Work on the new crossings will likely start in 2022.
In the meantime, Public Works will pave the section of rail trail from Harper Avenue southwest to Morganton Boulevard.
The paving and crossings is another investment the City is making into the "Funkytown" area of Lenoir. The OVNHT rail trail also runs beside the new Blue Bell apartments and the City's Community Gardens. The 46, market-rate units at Blue Bell are under construction and should be complete by September this year.
The graphic above show a completed section of OVNHT (solid pink), the section of OVNHT that will be paved this year (dotted pink), the location of the crossings (#1 is Harper Avenue, #2 is Light Street and College Avenue), other complete greenway in the area (solid green), and future greenway in the area (dotted orange).
The solid pink line is OVNHT rail trail that is already paved. Circle 1 shows the Harper Avenue crossing area. Circle 2 shows the Light Street and College Avenue crossing area.