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Plan aims to transform old rail line into a pedestrian trail

January 6, 2019

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — Community leaders in a northeast Alabama city are hoping to transform an old railroad line into a pedestrian trail.

The trail could eventually run from Alabama City to nearly the Coosa River, The Gadsden Times reported .

The Gadsden City Council recently agreed to purchase about 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) of railroad line from The Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company for $214,000.

The city has been working on acquiring the property for several years, said Shane Ellison, administrative assistant to the mayor.

Part of the line runs parallel to Tuscaloosa Avenue, and Ellison said the line will provide a pedestrian bridge over Black Creek at the rescue squad building. It could be tied into the Black Creek Trail system and basically connect those trails to the riverfront, Ellison said.

There are a number of rail-to-trail projects in the area, including the Chief Ladiga Trail, which runs through Calhoun and Cleburne counties before connecting with the Silver Comet Trail that runs to Smyrna, Georgia.

In Georgia, Atlanta also has undertaken the BeltLine project, which is a planned loop of more than 20 miles of trail around downtown Atlanta based on railroad corridors.

There are places in Atlanta where the trail goes through a business, and Gadsden City Councilman Jason Wilson said he’d like to make sure that zoning in Gadsden would allow such projects.

“If we’re planning for the future, and if we’re going to use this as a tool — not only as an alternate form of transportation but potentially as an economic development tool — I think it would be good for us to proactively, maybe at the very least identify a couple of points at the beginning and end that might need some rezoning,” Wilson said.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs may have grant money for future work, Ellison said.

The agency “has been forthcoming with grant money to do the trail construction,” said Ellison, who added that the grants could be either 50 percent or 80 percent of the cost to convert the rail line.

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Information from: The Gadsden Times, http://www.gadsdentimes.com

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