Last updated: July 17. 2013 6:01PM - 262 Views
Fred Pace

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WEST MADISON – Summit Engineering and political officials gathered last week at the site of a planned new pedestrian walking bridge to connect the Town of Danville to the Wellness Trail in Madison.

“We want the public to know that this project is ready to get started,” said Danville’s Town Manager, Josh Barker. “This project has been the joint effort of several people and groups and is finally ready to get started.”

On Tuesday, April 24, 2012, the Boone County Commission awarded a 20 percent matching grant of $175,000 for the project, which also received $700,000 in federal funding.

“This is a great day,” Seventh Senatorial District state Senator Ron Stollings said. “The wellness trail has done so well and we wanted to tie in Danville. We applied for this grant and we were able to procure this federal grant.”

Five months ago, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and the West Virginia Division of Highways, announced $4,802,314 in federal funds awarded to 27 projects as part of the 2011 Transportation Enhancement grant program.

The West Virginia Transportation Enhancement grant program is a Federal-Aid program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.

“The program provides annual funding, through the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation, to West Virginia communities for non-traditional transportation projects such as improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists through the construction of sidewalks and trails, preserving viewsheds for our highways, preserving historic resources and stimulating tourism development,” the governor said.

Boone County was awarded $700,000 for its pedestrian walking bridge project.

Stollings said the award was great news for Boone County. Stollings has been working with the governor to find funding for the much-needed bridge.

“This was several heads coming together,” said Barker. “Madison, Danville, the county commission and Senator Stollings all came together to make this dream a reality.”

Stollings said this project will make for a more walkable community and healthier citizens.

“I want to applaud the commission and the two towns for working together and Summit Engineering for making the grant application very good,” Stollings said. “Boone County gives so much to the state of West Virginia and this is a small way to give back to a county that gives so much.”

J.D. Elkins, a Summit Engineering owner and manager of its WV operations, said his company is excited about the project as well.

“Our goal is to serve and provide the citizens of Danville and Madison communities walkability and create enhanced access to the Madison Wellness Trail, tennis courts, the new Chad Pennington Park, Madison Middle School, Scott High School and its facilities, and more for this area,” Elkins said. “This will be a single span bridge and we will attempt to use the old peers from the old vehicular bridge that was here many years ago. We are pleased to employ Boone County people and glad the two towns have elected us to do this project.”

Elkins said his company will also be doing the sidewalks to join the wellness trail as well.

“We will begin with base surveying and design with construction beginning early spring weather permitting,” he added.

Elkins said he is estimating a 10-month timeline to finish the project.

“The bridge will serve both communities by providing pedestrians, bicyclists, wellness trail walkers, joggers and more additional activities,” he said. “Plus the expansion gives transportation options, creates a streetscape to enhance the beauty, and stimulate tourism development for the area”

Stollings says the goal of the walk bridge is linking Danville to West Madison is to make the communities more walkable.

“We’ve been trying to tie Danville into the Wellness Trail,” Stollings said. “This bridge would create access to Scott High School and its facilities, the Wellness Trail, tennis courts, the new Chad Pennington Park and more.”

Stollings said this is not only a public health issue, but also an economic development issue as well.

“Walkable communities are thriving, livable, sustainable places that give their residents more healthy choices and improved quality of life,” he said. “Increased walkability also helps improve resource responsibility, safety, physical fitness and social interaction.”

“The goal is to build it where the old highway bridge was in the 1970’s,” Stollings said. “We wouldn’t have to put in a pier and it would be an arch-span style walk bridge. I think we have a good chance to qualify for this funding.”

Stollings added that walkable communities are desirable places to live, work, learn, worship and play, and therefore a key component of smart growth.

“This project would be more than just a walk bridge,” Stollings said. “Walkable communities make pedestrian activity possible, thus expanding transportation options, and creating a streetscape that better serves a range of users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, wellness trail walkers and more.”

Walkable communities are nothing new. Outside of the last half-century, communities worldwide have created neighborhoods, communities, towns and cities premised on pedestrian access.

Many, like Stollings, believe that the personal and societal benefits of walkable communities create greater social interaction, improved personal and environmental health, and expanded citizen choices.

“This bridge encourages walking and offers many economic benefits by connecting these two communities,” Stollings said.

Madison Mayor Sonny Howell and Boone County commissioners Mickey Brown, Eddie Hendricks and Atholl Halstead all applauded the project and work done by the various groups to obtain funding.

“This is what can happen when we all work together,” Howell said.

“This is great news for Boone County,” Brown said.

“People come from all parts of the county to walk on this trail, so this will make it even better,” Hendricks said.

“All the walking trail systems in the county, like the one at Water Ways water park, are doing well and we are glad to see people using them,” Halstead said.

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