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West End trail project derailed by stalled development

(Updated at 3 p.m.) The city had plans — to the tune of a $5 million grant — to extend the Backlick Run Trail and connect Armistead Boothe Park to the Van Dorn Street bridge. But a redevelopment the plan hinged on his been stalled, and with it city staff said they’re shifting some of the funding to another project.

The trail runs behind the Cameron Station neighborhood and connects to the Holmes Run trail in the east, but ends abruptly at Armistead Boothe Park in the west. Cyclists or pedestrians continuing from there have to move up to the shared S. Pickett Street to get to the Van Dorn Bridge.

The staff report says last December the city is rescinded a $5 million Smart Scale grant awarded by the Virginia Department of Transportation, funding that would have comprised the bulk of the $7 million Backlick Run Trail Phase I project. Because the grant was awarded specifically for this project, staff said the funding cannot be reallocated to another project. The remaining $2.1 million was from other grant funding that can be retained and reallocated to other future projects.

The report doesn’t identify which stalled redevelopment caused the delay, but said obtaining the needed right of way without redevelopment would impede business operations adjacent to the trail — presumably the cluster of small businesses and restaurants just off S. Pickett Street.

“However, it has now become clear the City cannot utilize the grant funds to build the Backlick Run Trail at this time because development did not occur at the pace initially projected,” the report said. “The City does not currently own enough right-of-way to construct the trail, and impacted properties have not yet indicated a timetable for redevelopment.”

The city is instead pushing that trail extension back to the drawing board with new concepts and conditions for future developments in the area. The plan notes that one parcel at 600 S. Pickett Street already has committed to adding parts of this trail, including a pedestrian/bicycle bridge — part of the Pickett Place development.

Now, city staff say the plan is to shift the remaining $2.1 million to the Beauregard Trail project, also in the West End. That shift in funding is scheduled to be reviewed at the Tuesday, Sept. 14 City Council meeting.

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