City seeks state funding for walkway connectivity

Construction for Rivers Edge Trail anticipated for spring 2023 if application is approved.
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Connecting walkways along the river would lead pedestrians to regional trails north of Grand Rapids. Michael Buck

The Grand Rapids City Commission is seeking $1.2 million in state grants to connect a series of walkways along the Grand River.

Commissioners recently held a public hearing on a series of four Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant applications for development of a multi-use bike and pedestrian trail along the east bank of the Grand River, to be submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The city’s riverbank walkway was constructed in unconnected segments over several years. The proposed project will close one of the most significant gaps and connect the city’s nonmotorized network to regional trails.

The Michigan DNR purchased the former railroad corridor along the east bank of the Grand River between Leonard and Ann streets in 2010. In 2019, the state conveyed the property to the city of Grand Rapids for the purpose of trail development.

“This is the last remaining segment of trail connection through downtown Grand Rapids, and once completed it would provide full pedestrian and bicycle connectivity through Grand Rapids all the way up to the White Pine Trail, which is a very significant and important investment,” said Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Director David Marquardt.

The three-quarter-mile section will connect Canal Park to Riverside Park and will close the gap between downtown Grand Rapids and the Fred Meijer White Pine Trial State Park going 92 miles north to Cadillac, as well as connecting to the Pere Marquette State Trail, Fred Meijer Pioneer Trail and Musketawa Trail.

The proposed trail design complies with ADA, Universal Design, AASHTO and River for All guidelines. It includes a universally accessible 12-foot-wide concrete shared use trail, universally accessible 14-foot-wide elevated boardwalk, native planting restoration and rain gardens at the bottom of side slopes to manage stormwater, native trees, LED lighting, benches with accessible companion seating, a bike repair station, trash cans and signage.

The trail includes three underpasses under Leonard Street, Ann Street and the GR Eastern Railroad bridge and connections to Monroe Avenue and the bike lanes.

The total project cost is estimated to be $6,375,435, and the estimated MNRTF grant-eligible project cost is $5,164,819. The project has been broken into four separate trail segments corresponding to four grant applications totaling a request of $1,200,000.

Marquardt told the commission the reason for the four separate applications is because MNRTF grants are capped at $300,000 each.

The four segments are as follows:

Segment 1

Segment 1 connects to the existing trail south of Leonard Street and takes it under Leonard Street Bridge and back up to grade with trail and boardwalk. The total grant-eligible project cost is $1,568,643.

Segment 2

Segment 2 runs north of Leonard Street to the railroad property, including a spur to Monroe Avenue and the existing bike lanes. Total grant-eligible project cost is $1,356,176.

Segment 3

Segment 3 commences north of the railroad property to the south side of Ann Street, including eastward along Ann to Monroe Avenue and the existing bike lanes. Total grant-eligible project cost is $665,800.

Segment 4

Segment 4 is the trail and boardwalk under Ann Street connecting to the existing trail north of Ann. The total grant-eligible project cost is $1,574,200.

The MNRTF requires a 25% match of total project cost for each application. The required match will be met with a combination of parks millage (minimum $75,000 per segment), federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds and City Capital Reserve appropriations. The city also is working with West Michigan Trails and Greenways for private philanthropic fundraising.

Millage funds already have been committed. The city is waiting for the results of the TAP grant application, which was submitted to the Michigan Department of Transportation in October 2020.

The project was approved by the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Advisory Board at its meeting on Jan. 6.

The grant submission deadline is for April 1. If the grant is awarded, the city will be notified by December, and the state will give the agreed-upon awards in spring 2022.

Construction for the Rivers Edge Trail is anticipated for spring 2023 if the application is approved.

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