Trail project boosted

Published 8:58 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Efforts on the local front to link downtown Suffolk to the Virginia Beach oceanfront via a paved trail have received a boost.

Last month, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $448,800 to continue the Seaboard Coastline Trail from Shoulders Hill Road to the Chesapeake line at Town Point Road.

It was among dozens of allocations under the Transportation Alternatives Program, which uses federal transportation and matching state or local money.

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With the cost of the one-mile leg estimated at $561,000, Gabriel said the city would make up the difference with a local match of $113,000.

“They are still excellent grants, you just have to make sure you are strategically able to fund the local match,” she said.

From Shoulders Hill Road to the village of Driver — a distance of 2.3 miles — is already funded and under construction.

“We are doing great,” Gabriel said of the progress on that. “We have had excessive rain. Spring and summer haven’t been very friendly, unfortunately.”

Crews are looking forward to a stretch of dry weather to complete the work, and it’s hoped the next mile-long leg will be finished by November, according to Gabriel.

Linking into the South Hampton Roads Trail — which will journey through Suffolk, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach — the Seaboard Coastline Trail, setting out from the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, will run 11.5 miles once completed.

Gabriel said the city started in the north after encountering obstacles on the downtown end. What will be the final leg — from Nansemond Parkway to downtown — has “a couple of property issues” hanging over it.

“When we come to that phase, we will work with a right-of-way agent and particular property owners to see if easements or sharing of property can work out, so we can continue the trail and finish the project,” Gabriel said.

Meanwhile, the city has begun seeking grant funds for the 4.6-mile leg from Driver to Nansemond Parkway. Grant applications are due by Nov. 1, Gabriel said, and awards usually are announced by April.

“We believe we’ve got some good momentum going,” Gabriel said, adding business people in Driver are pleased with the potential benefits from people using the multipurpose trail.

“We have met with a couple of business people out there. They have showed tremendous interest — they are very excited because that is a destination spot.

“Coming from the north side, you can park your bike right there at the trail head and walk into Driver, get lunch, do a little shopping and see the historic side of Suffolk.”

The project fits well with other local efforts to increase health and wellness, Gabriel said.