Agencies developing a greenway trail between Springfield and Ozark plan to apply this month for a competitive state grant to help fund a Highway 65 overpass.
The $20 million Chadwick Flyer Trail has been in development since 2019 by Ozark Greenways Inc., the city of Ozark and the Ozarks Transportation Organization. Officials plan for the regional trail to take cyclists, joggers and walkers 12 miles along the original Chadwick Flyer, a rail line that spans 17 miles from National Avenue near downtown Springfield to the Finley River Trail in Ozark.
A $40,000 study commissioned in 2021 by OTO, with engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc., helped determine a steel span bridge was the most effective method for the Chadwick Flyer Trail to cross the four-lane, divided Highway 65, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
OTO Executive Director Sara Fields said the $2.75 million cost estimated this summer for the overpass project is now expected to be roughly $3.7 million when including engineering, right of way and utility relocation costs. Jeremy Parsons, Ozark’s Public Works director, said the grant application must be submitted to the state Department of Economic Development by Dec. 14. The Local Tourism Asset Development Grant program supports public-private partnerships intended to further the statewide recovery of the tourism, travel and hospitality industries from the negative economic impact of COVID-19, according to the DED website. The state was allocated $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds and Parsons said local officials are seeking $1.5 million.
“Our proposal is a partnership between OTO, Christian County and Ozark to fund the remainder,” Fields said. “On the OTO side, we’d be using federal funds specifically allocated to transportation alternatives.”
If approved for the grant, OTO would provide $1.5 million toward the project, she said. The city of Ozark and Christian County would fund local matches of $375,000 apiece. Officials with all three entities agreed in November to apply for the grant.
“You’re basically making a case you can stimulate economic development or vitality by creating a tourism destination. In this case, it would be the Chadwick Flyer,” Parsons said. “I’m very positive that we’ve got a great chance at this.”
The DED website notes grant announcements will be made in January.
If funding is secured, Fields said construction could start as early as spring 2024 and be completed roughly a year later.
Since 2020, much of the focus of the Chadwick Flyer Trail has centered on a nearly 7.5-mile portion that runs from the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield south to the Ozark Community Center, 1530 W. Jackson St. The development of another 5 miles for the trail, which covers a railway corridor not in active use from Sunshine Street to Kissick Avenue, is dependent on the outcome of discussions between the city of Springfield and rail line owner BNSF Railway Co., said Ozark Greenways Executive Director Mary Kromrey. The city seeks to become the new owner of the corridor, she said.
In July, Ozark Greenways was awarded $3 million in ARPA funding from Springfield City Council to go toward development of the trail in Greene County. However, Kromrey said another $9 million will be needed to fully develop the 5-mile portion, which includes renovation of a steel railroad trestle bridge that crosses the James River just south of the Veterans Cemetery.
Officials continue to seek public and private funding sources.
“Never say never, but I don’t know of any specific COVID relief money that we are applying for,” Fields said.
Rail Materials Salvage Inc. began work in October to remove the rails and ties from a roughly 1.2-mile segment of decommissioned railroad from South Kissick Avenue and the Greene County line. OTO is working with Ozark Greenways and City Utilities of Springfield on the 2,200 linear feet portion of the trail, Fields said, adding the project is expected to go out for construction bids in the spring.
“Hopefully, it will be done in the summer or fall of 2023,” she said of the trail segment which sits on land owned by CU by Lake Springfield and the decommissioned James River Power Station.
Further south, another portion of the trail is under development on property owned by Tracker Marine near North 21st Street in Ozark. Design work is expected to start by the end of the year. Parsons said a tree survey also is planned to determine the least evasive route to limit impact on the property’s oak trees. Costs are still to be determined, officials say.
“If we stretched it out the length of the property, you’re looking at 3,000 linear feet, which is a good chunk,” Parsons said of the planned trail segment.
Fields said OTO is contributing about $2 million combined for the two segments, noting money came from allocated COVID relief funds. Ozark Greenways will provide a roughly 20% match for the Greene County portion, while the city of Ozark will do the same for the segment by Tracker Marine, she said, adding the final total is still to be calculated.
While several portions of the trail are complete or in progress, officials acknowledge the project’s completion is still years away. However, Parsons said the cooperative nature of partners working on the endeavor has greatly sped up the original timeline.
“When we first started talking about this, we were looking at a 20- to 25-year project,” he said. “We went from drawing lines on a map and now we have concrete on the ground, we’re going after the overpass. The way we are approaching this is [to] identify lower hanging fruit; you get in there and start building those segments. You then create this additional demand to fill the gaps. When you have those gaps, your future grant applications become that much stronger because you’re essentially creating a connection between bookends of the trail.
“It does look a little haphazard when you look at it on a map, but what we’re doing is knocking them out as we can,” he added.
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