Key part of Fall Line Trail construction starts next month
The regional Fall Line Trail is set to officially break ground in Henrico County next month. The 43-mile-long trail will span from Petersburg to Ashland and serves as a counterpart to the Capital Trail.
Regional planners see it as a “spine trail” that can connect towns, schools, businesses, public transit stations, and other trail networks throughout Central Virginia.
“It's basically an alternative transportation corridor for non-motorized vehicles that will connect to a lot of things,” said Todd Eure, assistant director of the Henrico County Department of Public Works.
Eure is a member of the PlanRVA Fall Line work group committee. PlanRVA is a state-designated council of nine localities that collaborate over regional projects.
Henrico County plans to start on the project in October, near Bryan Park. County leaders have designed the trail, set aside funding, and began to acquire land easements for their section. Henrico’s portion of the trail is over 7 miles long and will be built in eight phases, according to the county.
The work starts near the City of Richmond line with an asphalt shared-use path from Bryan Park Avenue across Lakeside Avenue and into Spring Park. The project is a quarter-mile long and estimated to cost $1.2 million, according to the county. The next phase, estimated at $3.3 million, will extend the trail from Spring Park to Dumbarton Road. Eventually, the trail will reach Chickahominy River at the boundary line between Henrico and Hanover counties. The county hopes to have its work completed by 2025, according to Eure. The plans allow for a longer time frame. Planners hope to complete the Ashland to Richmond section by 2025.
“We're trying to design ours to be a world-class trail,” Eure said. “We are making it wider than the Capital Trail, so we're doing ours at 12 feet wide, as opposed to 10 feet, because we are building it for success.”
Organizers face a few challenges ahead of the entire trail’s completion. There is an overall $30 to $50 million funding gap, according to Eure. Everything from Ashland to Richmond is already funded, Eure said.
Local and state funding, along with federal grants and private donations helped raise $250 million. The trail originally was estimated to cost approximately $266 million. Costs have gone up marginally due to inflation and other design reasons.
PlanRVA still needs to buy some land for the trail and determine what percentage of out-of-pocket construction costs counties and townships will pay.
Members of the Central Virginia Transportation Authority Fall Line Trail work group met on Sep. 6. Topics discussed ranged from the content and color of signage, the funding gap, and how to incorporate information about local history and nature along the trail.
There will be 11 miles of trail under construction once Henrico breaks ground, followed by Hanover County in January, said Emily Monroe, community engagement coordinator for Bike Walk RVA, a Sports Backers affiliate. It is “really massive” to see the project take shape after years of paperwork, she said.
“So seeing these big connections really start to happen is exciting,” Monroe said.
Richmond recently secured approximately $30 million for parts of the trail through state funding, according to Sports Backers’ Bike Walk RVA. The group also helped raise some funding for the Fall Line’s development by hosting community engagement events at hikes, rides, and events along parts of the trail.
State and local support for a massive regional trail wouldn’t have been possible without the success of the Capital Trail, according to Eure. Eure has worked closely with the Capital Trail Foundation and witnessed the uphill battle to get the trail supported, funded and built. The 52-mile trail runs east from Richmond’s downtown riverfront into Williamsburg. The Fall Line Trail will run north to south and provide a connection over to the Capital Trail.
“Nobody wants the Fall Line Trail to take 20 years,” said Eure. "I think at a regional level, everybody understands the value that these trails bring to the residents of the region and to tourism, to economic development.”
The projected date for the completed trail is sometime between 2029 and 2031.
The quality of life for citizens along the trail will “improve drastically,” according to Monroe.
“When community members are able to feel safe when they walk, bike, or roll, they're more inclined to use alternate methods of transportation in more aspects of their daily lives,” she said.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.