Originally created 09/16/97

Officials preparing bike trail grant



The Augusta Canal Authority and Augusta city officials are preparing an application for a $450,000 federal grant to add a third phase of bicycle trails and other improvements to the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area.

But the request will depend largely on whether Congress reauthorizes the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act this year.

"It is contingent upon Congress reauthorizing the entire program this fall," said Glenn Coyne, the canal authority's executive director. "But Georgia officials feel strongly enough about its chances of passing that they're already getting pre-applications in."

The transportation act generates $25 billion a year through the 18.3-cent federal gasoline tax and guides how that money is spent. The state Department of Transportation distributes federal dollars for the program in Georgia.

Under the law, past allocations to the canal were aimed at encouraging nonmotorized traffic.

The canal master plan was helped along five years ago by $300,000 from the transportation act. More recently, the city received $625,000 to restore a bridge from the Lake Olmstead area and to improve bike trails and fencing along the canal.

"That bikeway project was in three phases," Mr. Coyne said. "The first two phases have been funded in that $625,000 we got a couple years ago, but the third phase has not been funded."

That third phase would add trails from Rae's Creek to Riverwalk in Augusta's downtown area, supplementing existing trails and those to be improved in the project's first and second phases, he said.

The grant likely will be approved if Congress continues to fund the grant program this fall.

"This is a continuation of the project we already have," Mr. Coyne said. "The engineering for the third phase was already included in the second phase. Based on that, we think it's a very strong application because they've already funded the engineering and the first two phases."

The application deadline is Oct. 13.

Columbia County received $942,000 from the program two years ago for restoration of historic buildings at the canal headgates near Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

Although that money has been approved for distribution, the allocation is subject to congressional reauthorization of the entire program this fall.