Oak Ridge seeks input on ‘Rails to Trails’ project

(Oak Ridge press release)  The City of Oak Ridge is working on a “Rails to Trails” (R2T) project for the adaptive reuse of 4.6 miles of abandoned CSX railroad within the city, to create a greenway for pedestrians and bicycles.

A drop-in public meeting will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in the Oak Ridge Civic Center Gym, to present the trail design and next steps for the project, and to seek input from residents.  Masks are encouraged.

The full greenway will extend from Elza Gate at the Oak Ridge Turnpike, along Belgrade Road, Warehouse Road, Fairbanks Road, and Lafayette Drive, and across South Illinois Avenue to the Y-12 National Security Complex entrance on Scarboro Road.

“The greenway system brings parkland nearer to all Oak Ridge citizens,” said Recreation and Parks Director Jon Hetrick. “It provides an opportunity for motor-less commuting, enjoyable physical exercise, learning experiences about wildlife, and connections to parks, schools, and shopping areas.”

Project funding was initially awarded in 2017, through a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to assist with preliminary studies, design, and acquisition of the right-of-way. Then, the FY2020-2023 Knoxville Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a four-year work program approved by the Federal Highway Administration, allocated federal transportation funds for 80% of the full construction cost of the 4.6-mile greenway, based on a total project cost of $4.4 Million.

Currently, the City’s consultant has completed preliminary studies and design, and the next phase is railway acquisition.

“Aside from creating a safe and secure corridor for cyclists and pedestrians that is accessible from surrounding neighborhoods, the greenway will help to expand a greater network of greenways, trails, and sidewalk connections for people to use,” City of Oak Ridge Community Development Planner Nathalie Schmidt said.

To learn more about how the R2T project supports all three over-arching goals of the Oak Ridge City Blueprint, a community visionary plan that declares that Oak Ridge will improve through planned strategic growth and by knowing and preserving its most cherished values, visit http://oakridgeblueprint.info. For questions or more information, email railstotrails@oakridgetn.gov.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:30 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, and cats Oliver, Bow and Libby.

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