Trails to get $1M in fed funding

COVINGTON - Newton County will receive nearly $1 million in federal funding for "rails to trails" projects through the Omnibus Appropriation Act of 2009, Congressman Jim Marshall, D-Ga., recently announced.

Projects that will benefit are the Covington Bypass Tunnel, which will receive $142,500 in funding. According to a project description provided by Newton County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk, the tunnel will be part of the county's trails master plan. It will come into play on a 3-mile trail stretching from the Newton County Library to Eastside High School and on to the Alcovy River. At Martin Street, the trail will cross Eagle Drive by way of a pedestrian underpass and continue on through undeveloped right of way to the high school and Alcovy River.

This will connect the downtown, already connected to the library via trails, to new mixed-use developments, including more than 2,000 residences, shopping and dining, the high school, an adjoining development's conservation easement and, finally, the proposed Alcovy Greenway.

The estimated total cost is roughly $1.8 million. According to the project description, the county has already received $925,000 in federal funds and committed a $225,000 local match.

Another project to benefit from the Omnibus Act is the Yellow River Trail, which will get $232,750. The 4.5-mile concrete trail will meander cross-country paralleling Turkey Creek and the Yellow River and will cross the Yellow River via a pedestrian bridge.

It will ultimately connect Turner Lake Park to schools on Brown Bridge Road and the renovated depot in Porterdale.

The total project cost estimate is about $2.5 million. The county has been allocated about $1.2 million in federal funding and contributed $374,000 in local matching funds.

Finally, the county will receive $622,250 for purchase of railroad rights of way associated with a state/regional project. Negotiations are ongoing to purchase approximately 40 miles of railroad right of way from Norfolk Southern and the Great Walton Railroad for use as a pedestrian rails to trails project that will connect Porterdale east through Covington to Shady Dale; Monticello to Madison; then move on to Apalachee, Bishop, Watkinsville, Athens and Center, near Commerce.

The total cost estimate for the county's portion is $1.2 million

"I am pleased to announce funding for these projects," Marshall said. "I worked hard to ensure these projects survived the appropriations process and I'm very happy with the results."

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.