The city of Hilliard, in conjunction with the development of Landmark Lofts, plans to extend the Rails to Trails route from its terminus at First Responders Park, at the corner of Center and Main streets, southeast across Cemetery Road.
Engineering and design work is expected to occur next year, with construction set in 2015, Hilliard Service Director Butch Seidle said.
Hilliard City Council members recently amended the city's five-year capital improvement plan to add the necessary funding for the extension.
It is designed to encourage and enhance pedestrian and bicycle traffic between Landmark Lofts, a mixed-use retail and residential development at Cemetery Road and Franklin Street, and the businesses on Main Street and other streets, in the Old Hilliard business district.
"We've been asked more times than I can count when we are going to extend the bike path," Hilliard Parks and Recreation Director Steve Mazer said.
The bike path currently extends as far north in Hilliard as the Heritage Trail Metro Park just north of Hayden Run Road. The connection to the south will extend it to the Municipal Building, just south of Cemetery Road, using the existing railroad overpass to cross Cemetery Road.
Eventually, city officials hope to continue the path south to the intersection of Scioto-Darby Road and Leap Road, at the entrance to the Darby Glen subdivision, the southern city limit of Hilliard.
With the cooperation of the city of Columbus, they also hope to connect Rails to Trails to Griggs Reservoir and Duranceaux Park on the west bank of the Scioto River.
"The Landmark Lofts development is a great stepping stone for better recreational trails in Hilliard (and) a great first step toward extending the path (in Hilliard) to Scioto-Darby Road and Leap Road," Mazer said.
The city's five-year capital improvement budget already included funding to widen and improve the existing Rail to Trails path between Heritage Trail Metro Park and First Responders Park. The path will be widened from 10 feet to 16 feet, and the entire 2.5 miles in Hilliard's jurisdiction will be resurfaced. The budget sets aside $700,000 for widening the path.
Added to the five-year CIP was an appropriation of $252,000 to acquire the necessary right of way from Norfolk-Southern, a total of about 5.6 acres, to extend the path along the former railroad bed.
City officials reported a tentative agreement with Norfolk-Southern has been reached to extend the path and provide a landscaped buffer between Landmark Lofts and the backyards of residences along Norwich Street.
About $168,000 has been set aside to build the 2,030-foot extension of Rails to Trails.
The additional funds for the right-of-way acquisition and construction of the path will be generated from developer fees paid in lieu of parkland for other developments in the city, Seidle said.