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Library to Eastside Trail construction set to begin in fall

COVINGTON -- Construction of the Library to Eastside Multi-Use Trail is expected to get under way this fall, after six years of preparation.

The three-mile trail will begin at the Newton County Library on Floyd Street and meander in a southeasterly direction through Chimney Park to Martin Street, proceed east along Martin Street, and through undeveloped right of way to Eagle Drive. From there the trail will cross Eagle Drive by way of a pedestrian underpass and continue on an undeveloped 50-foot right of way south to Eastside High School and on to the Alcovy River.

The trail will connect the library and the downtown to future mixed-use developments, residences, retail, restaurants, the high school, a conservation easement and the proposed Alcovy River Greenway.

The total project cost, including the tunnel, is $1,803,054. The Georgia Department of Transportation included tunnel construction in the U.S. Highway 278 and Ga. Highway 142 intersection improvement project and there is no local match required for that portion of the project.

More than $900,000 in grant money has been received thus far on the trail project, according to Cheryl Delk, special projects coordinator for Newton County. Grant money funds construction but not engineering, design or easement acquisition, she said. Local matching funds must pay for those costs.

According to a letter from Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan to the city of Covington, Newton County has expended about $314,000 on the project, including $228,000 for design and preliminary engineering, $11,250 for property appraisals, and around $75,000 for in-kind services of project administration and grant writing.

The city of Covington committed during the initial grant funding process to provide a match of $225,000. City Manager Steve Horton said the match money has been in the city's budget since at least 2006.

The Library to Eastside Trail is totally within city limits, and Delk recently requested release of the money to complete the design and purchase of easements. Upon completion, the county will turn the trail over to the city as an extension of the Clark Street/Floyd Street sidewalk and bike lane route.

"You can see how much we've put into it and how important it is to complete the project so children can walk to school," Delk said.

Morgan wrote a letter to the city assuring officials the trail will be completed in a timely manner. Some easements have been donated while others require purchase. The total appraised cost for easements that must be purchased is $100,000.

The county will invoice the city for matching funds as they are spent, according to Morgan. The city agreed on Aug. 16 to pay an invoice of $114,000 for preliminary engineering already completed. The remaining $111,000 will be invoiced to the city as it is spent to cover easement purchasing.

There will still be a $90,000 shortfall remaining. The county will apply for the 2011-12 TE funding or DNR Trail funding for the balance of the trail work, including additional amenities like benches and waste receptacles, according to Morgan.

If all goes as planned, construction will get under way in the fall and the trail will be completed in early 2011.