While officials behind a greenway trail seeking to link Springfield and Ozark say they have determined the ideal crossing for U.S. Highway 65, they have not figured out the timeline and method for funding the $2.75 million project.
Multiple crossing alternatives for the highway were considered for the $20 million Chadwick Flyer Trail, which has been in development since 2019. Aided by a $40,000 study commissioned last year by the Ozark Transportation Organization with engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc., along with over 30 public comments of the completed report last month, officials said the best option is to cross the four-lane, divided highway with a steel span bridge.
The structure would cross near the alignment of the original Chadwick Flyer, a rail trail that runs nearly 17 miles in length from National Avenue near downtown Springfield to the Finley River Trail in Ozark. Along with the city of Ozark, OTO is aiding Ozark Greenways Inc. in the Chadwick Flyer Trail development.
“It actually came out to be the cheapest,” OTO Executive Director Sara Fields said of the options under consideration, which included an underpass structure.
Each crossing alternative was evaluated in areas such as costs, aesthetics, maintenance, safety and environmental impacts, officials say.
“I thought it was great public input,” Fields said, noting most supported the overpass option. “I was really impressed that we had the engagement that we did.”
Still, the nearly $2.8 million price tag is higher than originally anticipated, Fields said. The project is on the radar of the Missouri Department of Transportation, which has been involved in discussions on getting the trail across Highway 65. The highway crossing proposal has been added to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, but currently is on the unfunded needs list, she said.
Alternative funding options are yet to be identified, officials say.
Higher-than-expected costs have been a common occurrence during the past few years for trail construction projects, said Mary Kromrey, Ozark Greenways executive director. The Chadwick Flyer Trail’s original $8 million total project estimate in 2019 was based on 2017-18 prices, with inflation noted to be included for each year beyond 2018. That was before the worldwide economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent financial challenges, such as rising inflation, she said.
“Costs are different between 2017 and 2022,” Kromrey said. “The scope of the project has changed, and costs have risen.
“Just like any development project or construction project, we’ve got a lot of variables at the best of times. Now you throw in worker shortages, supply chain issues, inflation, we’ve got a whole new set of variables that we’re working with.”
A nearly 7.5-mile portion of the trail that runs from near the edge of Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield south to nearly reach the Ozark Community Center, 1530 W. Jackson St., has been a focus since 2020 for the project’s partners.
Kromrey said like numerous Ozark Greenway projects, the trail’s development is coming in segments.
A nearly 4,300 linear foot segment of the trail in Olde World Estates, an Ozark residential subdivision, was completed by Kindrick-Counts Land Development LLC in August 2020. Developer David Counts invested $290,000 in the project, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
One of the trail’s main crossings at Jackson Street in Ozark underwent improvements with a $9.3 million widening project by MoDOT starting in July 2019, Kromrey said, noting it concluded last year. MoDOT’s work was in conjunction with Ozark’s $1.8 million Jackson Street project that has over 4,000 linear feet of trails and two underpasses to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross beneath the street. Ozark received an $870,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund its efforts.
Kromrey said roughly $2.5 million in private and public funds have been spent in support of the trail with another $2 million committed by OTO.
Additional funding sources are being sought privately, Kromrey said, declining to disclose ongoing discussions. Fundraising efforts were delayed amid the pandemic as she said the nonprofit sought American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“It made sense to see if we could capture any of those for our community,” she said. “We’ve been visiting and cultivating relationships and wanting to make the best use of everybody’s resources.”
While Ozark Greenways didn’t receive any ARPA funding it applied for through the state or Greene County, it has a pending application with the city of Springfield. Kromrey said the request should be considered by City Council in July.
“We requested at a low end of $3 million, but we let them know that we anticipated the entire portion of the trail in Greene County only will cost about $12 million,” she said.
That cost includes a steel railroad trestle bridge that crosses James River just south of the Veterans Cemetery and is owned by BNSF Railway Co. The city is in discussions with BNSF to become the owner of the railway corridor not in active use from Sunshine Street to Kissick Avenue, Kromrey said. It would allow the bridge to be renovated for Chadwick Flyer Trail use and add another 5 miles to the 7.5 miles in development.
Next up, OTO is working with Ozark Greenways and City Utilities of Springfield to construct a roughly 1.2-mile segment from South Kissick Avenue to the Greene County line. The portion of the trail is on CU-owned land near abandoned BNSF railroad by Lake Springfield and the decommissioned James River Power Station, which the utility company partially demolished in February.
Fields said Crawford, Murphy & Tilly is working on a cost estimate and environmental work for the project. Construction is expected to start in early 2023.
Even as costs rise and funding challenges persist, Fields and Kromrey said the trail partners continue to push forward.
“In the trail world, as far as projects go, we’re going gangbusters,” Fields said. “We were thinking this was a 20-year plan and it’s shaping up to be a five- to 10-year plan. I’m pretty excited.”
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