Federal funds to help local trail

Gresham will receive $800,000 to put bridge over Powell Boulevard

A new round of federal funding will help pay for a bridge needed as part of the Gresham-Fairview Trail.

The 5.2-mile trail, which just broke ground last summer, is one of 14 projects across the state to benefit from $11.3 million approved by Oregon's Transportation Commission, said Shawn Uhlman, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Those 14 projects are among 75 applicants who requested a total of $64 million in federal highway administration dollars.

Of the $11.3 million in funding, Gresham will receive $800,000 for a bridge over Powell Boulevard. The bridge is needed to safely connect trail-users to the Springwater Trail to the south, said Phil Kidby, Gresham-Fairview Trail project manager.

The federal dollars are awarded through an Oregon Department of Transportation program that funds projects that enhance transportation with things like new sidewalks, bike paths and streetscapes, and that use restored railroad depots and other historic buildings along Oregon highways.

Like the Springwater Trail, the $9.4 million Gresham-Fairview Trail is part of the 'rails to trails system' - a project that turned old elevated railroad beds into recreational trails. When complete, the Gresham-Fairview Trail will link the Springwater Trail to the 40 Mile Loop Trail at Northeast Marine Drive.

Last summer, the city broke ground on Phase I, 1.24 miles along a Portland General Electric transmission line between Northeast Halsey Street and Burnside Road. Phase I will be done in late March when it's warm enough to apply sidewalk striping, Kidby said.

The bridge above Powell Boulevard is part of the trail's second and third phases, which encompass a 2-mile link connecting Phase 1 to the Springwater Trail. Phases 2 and 3 also will benefit from $2 million in federal funds that Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., secured last December.

Funding for Phase I came from a nearly $1.1 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation in 2005. The remaining 1.91-mile link to Marine Drive, or Phase 4 and 5, will be built as local, federal and state funding becomes available.

Gresham will use parks system development charges to make up the difference between the $800,000 grant and the bridge's $1.35 million price tag, Kidby said. That $335,000 counts as the 10.27 percent in matching funds required by the state.

Officially identified in 1995 as part of the city's parks, recreation and open spaces master plan, the Gresham-Fairview Trail received its very own master plan in 2002. That plan calls for $2 million in pedestrian crossings, including the Powell Boulevard bridge and a pedestrian tunnel under Division.

Gresham has already purchased the old rail lines needed for the Springwater Trail connection, but must still acquire the right-of-way needed for the northern link to Marine Drive.

Nearly $3.1 million of a Metro bond approved by voters in November is earmarked for use in Gresham and Fairview. The money could be used to purchase the needed right-of-way to Marine Drive, said Laura Bridges-Shepard, Gresham spokeswoman.

The city's goal is to complete the trail by 2012, but nearly half of the trail should be done by fall 2008.

'Hopefully in less than two years, folks who live in Rockwood will be able to hike or bike or walk or jog 3.29 miles from Halsey to the Springwater Trail,' Kidby said. 'It's very exciting.'