Park project ready for bids

by Sarah Melton

The map above show’s Mount Holly’s linear park and greenway. The linear park, light green area on the map, will run along East Central Avenue from Wachovia Bank to South Lee Street. The greenways, colored dark green on the map, will run through the linear park.

The Mount Holly City Council is moving forward with bidding out the linear park project.

The park, the centerpiece of the future Catawba River Greenway, will connect users from downtown to the Mount Holly Citizens Center on East Central Avenue and to future legs of the greenway.

The first phase of the project will run from Central Avenue, near Wachovia Bank, to Lee Street at N.C. 27. Construction crews will close East Central Avenue from Highland Avenue to Lee Street and Lee Street from N.C. 27 to East Central Avenue to remove existing pavement and rebuild the street. Construction is expected to take six months.

“Phase one is basically taking out East Central Avenue,” said Greg Beal, senior planner for the city. “The sidewalk on the municipal complex is two feet higher than the road so we have to bring the road up and level it out. You’ll have sidewalk improvements and then you’ll have the trail, which is a 10-foot wide, concrete trail with brick accents.”

A majority of the project is located in the CSX railroad right-of-way. The railroad approved plans for the first phase of the project in September.

After the September approval, CSX and the N.C. Department of Transportation approached the city about closing the unsignalized crossover street, about 300 feet east of N.C. 27 and Main Street, in front of the old police department. CSX and transportation department labeled the crossing a liability and safety hazard.

Two months later, the city held a public hearing on closing the crossover street with no public comment or objection. The cost of closing the crossover street was to be handled by CSX and the state. The city would receive $14,000, divided evenly among both organizations, and the city council would decide where to allocate the money.

CSX sought to include the crossover street issue in the park’s construction agreement so both issues could be handled at one time. The city is expected to review the final draft, incorporating the city’s comments and cost estimates for the first phase of construction, in a few weeks.

The first phase of construction will cost approximately $650,000, excluding the fees from CSX. Officials don’t know how much a second phase of construction will cost or when that would begin, Beal said.

Some funding for the project will come from a $5 million bond referendum, approved by Mount Holly voters in 2003. Of the $5 million, $1.4 million in bonds remains available. Additional monies are a $100,000 grant from the Carolina Thread Trail. The city received $210,000 in federal funds from the N.C. Deptartment of Transportation to handle the majority of signalization work at Lee Street and N.C. 27 but must match 10 percent, or $21,000.

“That is over $300,000 in grant money that we’ve got,” Beal said. “That is phenomenal. That is about one-third of phase one of the project, since we don’t know what CSX will charge yet.”

Beal said that the bid recommendations will likely go to the council for approval in April or May.

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