Funding to develop the East Coast Greenway hit a growth spurt in 2019 with nearly $200 million awarded for planning, design and construction of segments from Maine to Florida. Leading the investments are two U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grants: $18.1 million to Charleston, South Carolina, for a bike-pedestrian bridge over the Ashley River and $22 million to Miami-Dade County, Florida, and the Underline towards design and construction of a 10-mile multimodal and recreation corridor beneath the elevated Miami Metrorail.
A third BUILD grant of $15 million to Greenville, North Carolina, funds in part some new and upgraded multi-use paths to complete a trail network around the city’s core. The new greenway will form part of the East Coast Greenway’s complementary Historical Coastal Route as it travels from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Richmond, Virginia, further east from the ECG spine route.
These grants combine with a number of additional major investments in the past year:
$5 million from the State of New Hampshire to purchase nearly 10 miles of unused rail corridor,
$100 million from the City of New York to build the East Midtown Greenway, an eight-block gap of the East River Esplanade which forms part of East Coast Greenway’s NYC East complementary route,
More than $15 million from several State of Connecticut departments to fund new Greenway miles including key crossings and intersections,
and more than $4 million for several Greenway segments from Florida Department of Transportation in its 2020 work plan.
“This is a great way to end the decade,” says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, executive director. “These funding commitments make our ambitious goal of completing the Greenway in 2030 more realistic.” The $55 million in BUILD grants to East Coast Greenway projects makes up nearly half of the $120 million in BUILD funding overall for greenway and active transportation projects across the U.S.
In 2018, Markatos-Soriano and Niles Barnes, deputy director, worked with Greenway partners from Massachusetts to Florida on submitting 11 BUILD grant proposals totaling more than $135 million. The Alliance’s support began with hosting a webinar to alert partners that the budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD program, formerly known as TIGER, had tripled to $1.5 billion for 2018. Alliance staff and key partners offered advice and support on writing the exhaustive grant applications. The two ECGA leaders later met with elected officials in Washington, D.C., to encourage their endorsements of the proposals and to showcase the visionary opportunity with federal leaders. Those meetings included Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, both of whom helped endorse the 2019 grant applications in their respective states.
Building greenways reaps significant return on investment, as quantified in a recent report focused on the Delaware River Watershed. The 2019 “Investing in Our Future” report found that completing the East Coast Greenway in the Greater Philadelphia region would generate a more than ten-fold return of more than $3 billion in public health, transportation, environmental and economic benefits.
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