Looks like there's an explanation for Bill Bussey's optimism last week over the American Tobacco Trail's long-delayed "Phase E" missing link to connect the trail from NC 54 across I-40 and past the Streets at Southpoint. On the docket for this afternoon's City Council work session is a provision to shift $106,000 from older, funded-but-not-finished projects (more on that in a sec) to begin the community input and conceptual design phase of the ATT and the I-40 pedestrian bridge.
The ATT missing link project has been frustrating because the 2005 Federal transportation bill included funds (thanks to the efforts of Congressman David Price) for completing the Durham/Chatham County parts of the ATT, yet almost eighteen months have passed with little action from city government to get things moving. The plan now is to use the $106,000 from other Durham capital projects to begin the community and design phase now, even as city government works in parallel to finalize the project agreement with NCDOT and to hire a consultant (likely Parsons Brinckerhoff) to work on project design. City staff estimate this could shave four to six months off of the completion date. For more details, check out this memo from the City Council agenda web site.
According to the memo, almost $99,000 of the funding comes from 1996 bond funds allocated towards a pool replacement project. Memo author R. Lee Murphy points out that the bond money "must be used on a project in the Culture and Recreation Service Area of the CIP." Interesting that there's still money shaking around from the '96 bond eleven years later, especially given the fits and starts that local neighborhoods like Duke Park have encountered when trying to shake any funds loose from the city coffers for such projects.
Still, no beef here whatsover with a very good end for these dollars. Here's to getting this rail-to-trail project back on track.