The recent submission of 11 BUILD grant applications to the U.S. Department of Transportation creates an unprecedented opportunity to develop the East Coast Greenway — the nation’s longest connected walking, running, and biking route. With guidance and support from the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the 11 partnerships of municipalities, nonprofits, and agencies requested a total of more than $100 million to plan, design, and/or build more than 200 miles of East Coast Greenway in seven states, from Massachusetts to Florida.
The Department of Transportation’s BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) program is a rebranding of the former TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program, which has invested tens of millions of dollars in the East Coast Greenway over the years.
This past spring, the East Coast Greenway Alliance alerted its partners about $1.5 billion in available funding for 2018 — triple the TIGER funding of $500 million in 2017. Because the level of future BUILD funding is uncertain, the Alliance sees the grants as a crucial one-time opportunity. Staff members created a BUILD web page offering resources on when and how to apply for the grants as well as examples of past grant applications that won Department of Transportation funds. The Alliance also hosted a webinar featuring several national experts to offer advice on writing the grant applications. The webinar drew more than 100 key stakeholders from across the country.
“The U.S. DOT has a great opportunity to BUILD the Greenway, spurring economic development and strengthening communities in rural areas from New England to the Southeast,” says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, ECGA executive director. “Planning and constructing greenways are some of the smartest ways to invest our nation’s public resources, and we are proud of the portfolio of projects in front of federal transportation leaders.”
Markatos-Soriano and Niles Barnes, ECGA deputy director, will meet with federal officials in Washington, D.C. this fall to emphasize the unique opportunity the Greenway grant requests represent, collectively, to impact so many communities along the Eastern Seaboard.
In announcing the 2018 BUILD grants, federal officials cited a particular focus on meeting unmet infrastructure needs in rural communities. “Many of the Greenway applications submitted have a rural focus, from communities that can struggle to find the resources to complete their section of the East Coast Greenway,” says Barnes. “We are impressed by the innovative proposals, such as the planning request from North Carolina where partners proposed conducting a rural corridor study to close Greenway gaps side-by-side with broadband infrastructure installation.”
The extensive BUILD grant application required letters of support from partners and elected officials. The nine applications generated more than 150 letters from mayors and other municipal leaders voicing their support for the East Coast Greenway. Applicants could learn of funding awards as early as this fall, with funds to be made available by the end of the year.
The 11 East Coast Greenway grant proposals:
Proposal: Redevelopment of Industrial Drive in Mattapoisett for Economic Development, Safety, and Bike/Pedestrian Accommodations
Mattapoisett, MA, 1.5 miles complementary route, $7 million construction request
The project has four components, including construction of over a mile and a half of greenway to complete a 20-mile route on shared use paths and low traffic roads from New Bedford to Wareham.
Proposal: CTtrail Connections: Building a Network of Trails to Connect People to Jobs
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, Plainville Gap, 5.3 miles, $16.1 million construction request
Funds would build the key missing link in the 84-mile Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, already 95 percent separated from traffic. This project is the result of two years of collaborative planning efforts.
Tobacco Heritage Trail, Central Mecklenburg County Segment
16 miles, $19.5 million construction request
Most of this trail extension would be built on former railroad right-of-way, with approximately 1.5 including on-road improvements. This project will continue to help stimulate economic development and tourism in Southside Virginia while also greatly enhancing quality of life on the local level. The Beaches to Bluegrass Trail, running east/west across southern Virginia, intersects with the Tobacco Heritage Trail, as does the East Coast Greenway.
Proposal I: Durham Belt Line Trail: Connecting Communities to the Heart of Durham
Durham Belt Line, $6 million construction request
The Durham Belt Line is an envisioned multi-use trail and linear park that stretches 1.75 miles and is comprised of 17 acres of former railroad right-of-way. A .25 mile segment would become part of the East Coast Greenway.
Proposal II: East Coast Greenway BUILDs Rural NC: Rural Corridor Study Project
NC Rural Corridor Study, 160 miles, $750,000 planning request
This project aims to transform rural communities in North Carolina through a collaborative, innovative approach to integrating sustainable transportation and broadband infrastructure.
Proposal III: Brunswick County Greenway Trail: Connecting Rural Communities in Brunswick County
12.5 miles, $12.1 million construction request
The 12.5 mile off-road multimodal greenway trail connects the municipalities of Oak Island, Boiling Spring Lakes, and St. James.
Proposal I: Ashley River Crossing
Ashley River Bridge, Charleston, .4 miles, $16.9 million construction request
The Ashley River Crossing is an innovative multi-modal transportation initiative to connect downtown Charleston (the largest employer area) and West Ashley (the densest residential area) in Charleston, South Carolina. Separated by the Ashley River, commuters are limited to automobile travel due to unsafe intersections, narrow sidewalks, incomplete streets, and an antiquated signal system. The lack of alternative transportation options threatens not only the safety of citizens but also the metro area’s economic growth.
Proposal II: East Coast Greenway - Georgetown County Multimodal Transportation Enhancement Project
Georgetown to Waccamaw Neck Bikeway, 8.1 miles, $14.7 million construction request
The proposed project will connect 16 miles of existing bicycle and pedestrian paths begun in 1994 to five new segments totaling 12 additional miles to be completed by 2025.
Proposal: The Highlander Trail of the Coastal Georgia Greenway & the East Coast Greenway
Highlander Trail, McIntosh County and City of Darien, 20.5 miles, $24 million construction request
This project will accommodate unmet transportation needs in rural McIntosh County, Georgia, by providing pedestrian and cycling access. The trail will pass stunning views of saltwater creeks and marshes, historic Indian villages and Spanish missions, African American communities on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor along with sites of early settlements of Highland Scots, colonial forts, Civil War battles, and former cotton and rice plantations, as well as extensive wildlife preserves and riverside natural areas.
Proposal: Village Green Corridor Revitalization: Complete Streets, Greenway & Economic Connectivity Project
City of Port St. Lucie, planning study, $1.5 million planning request
The project seeks to boost the town center and connect major commercial, industrial, health, civic, first responder, park, greenway and low-income living spaces through a complete street upgrade to the Village Green Drive corridor. The upgraded corridor will connect the new $340 million Crosstown Parkway Extension bridge and U.S. Route 1 to major economic growth opportunities, civic and neighborhood hubs, and the East Coast Greenway.
Proposal: The Underline, Segment 6, Miami-Dade County Multimodal Mobility Corridor
Miami, FL, 2 miles, $16.4 million construction request
This request would fund design and construction of 1.98 miles of the 10-mile planned mobility corridor known as “The Underline.” The Underline repurposes underutilized industrial space beneath the most widely used regional transit heavy rail system to improve multimodal safety and access to Metrorail and the greater regional mass transit system. Segment 6 better connects the Underline to the University Metrorail station, one of the most frequented stations along the corridor.
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Recent record-setting funding for design and construction goes directly to building the East Coast Greenway - as it should. The East Coast Greenway Alliance needs your support to continue our advocacy work that is fueling completion of the Greenway. The Alliance has a sustained track record of turning every dollar donated to our nonprofit into $100 in public infrastructure investment. Invest today and support the growth of the East Coast Greenway from Maine to Florida.