Expansion of path to get moving

Jim Blaylock/Staff
Two bicyclists pedal along Evans to Locks Road in an area that does not yet have a bike path. County officials are working on a plan to extend the path toward the Evans Government Complex.

A bike trail designed to connect Augusta to Evans has hit a few bumps in the past year, but officials say they're hoping to get moving again on the project.

"I really would like to see this greenway completed at some point in time where you could transverse an awful lot of the county without a motorized vehicle," said Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. He said some people already use the existing path to bike to work from portions of Columbia County to Augusta during the summer.

The bike path currently spans about two miles along Evans to Locks Road from Stevens Creek Elementary School east to the Savannah Rapids Pavilion, where it crosses the canal and links to the canal path, which leads to Augusta.

The Columbia County side of the Evans to Locks path ultimately is to be expanded by about two miles from Stevens Creek Elementary west to Evans Town Center Drive near the Evans Government Complex. Delays in Furys Ferry Road work, railroad requirements and other issues have impeded progress.

Mr. Cross said he's ready to get the path's expansion started again, hoping to have about a quarter-mile stretch of the path from Stevens Creek Elementary to Furys Ferry Road completed in the next few months.

Beyond that, he said, he would like to have the path continued to the intersection of Blue Ridge Drive at Evans to Locks by next year. Also being considered are improvements to the Blue Ridge intersection. A possible widening of part of Evans to Locks Road to three lanes also could be linked with any future expansion of the bike path to Evans Town Center Drive.

One of the biggest holdups has been the delayed road work on Furys Ferry. Mr. Cross said Robertson Paving couldn't complete the path to Furys Ferry until that road work was completed.

Commissioners also must decide whether the bike path should cross a CSX railroad track. To extend it across the track, the county would have to pay nearly $500,000 for several CSX-required improvements to the crossing.

Ultimately, county officials have said they might decide to have the path end before it reaches the track and then pick it back up on the other side.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.