The trail spur, covering just under a mile, will include major bridges over the Sibley Mill and King Mill tailrace areas and allow cyclists to veer off the towpath, cross under River Watch Parkway and emerge downtown near Waters Edge subdivision.
“This one has taken a long time to get moving, but we’ve finally advertised for bids the last few weeks,” said Dayton Sherrouse, the Augusta Canal Authority’s executive director.
Five contractors attended a pre-bid conference held in Augusta this week.
The project was first planned, funded and bid in 2005, but never started because the canal authority was unable to secure easements to cross the tailrace at Sibley Mill.
At the time, its owner – Avondale Mills – was trying to sell the property and did not want to encumber it with other issues. That obstacle was removed when the canal authority purchased the mill and its adjoining land along the Savannah River.
Last year, efforts to launch the project were again slowed when a series of environmental clearances had to be renewed because of the long delay in starting the project.
An additional delay emerged when officials learned the Georgia Department of Transportation, which is providing $825,000 for the project from federal transportation enhancement grants it administers, had placed the project on hold because of inactivity. That problem has also been resolved, Sherrouse said.
The trail spur is expected to be an important connector that will better link the canal trails with downtown Augusta and the 13th Street bridge that will help bicyclists get from the canal to North Augusta’s Greeneway Trail System more easily.
The two bridges are the most complex and costly parts of the project. The King Mill tailrace will be breached by a cable-suspension bridge, and the Sibley Mill tailrace will be crossed by a pre-engineered bridge like the one now in use at the canal headgates.
The project was estimated to cost $1.2 million last time it was bid, and the Canal Authority is required to match at least 20 percent of the $825,000 grant, plus finance any additional costs of the project.
Although bids will be opened June 12, it is difficult to predict when the trails could open.
“At this point it’s hard to estimate when we’d sign a contract, not knowing the details of the bids and having to make sure everything that is required is included,” Sherrouse said, adding that Georgia DOT officials will also need to approve the bids before a contract is signed.
After a contract is executed, however, it will specify completion within 180 days, according to the bid documents.