There's a plan to extend the Shelby Farms Greenline to Midtown, but there's a big hurdle — make that two big hurdles — in the way.
Two active rail lines are blocking the planned path of the greenline extending west from Tillman to its eventual end at Tobey Park.
"It's the same rail line that runs adjacent to Wiseacre [Brewing Company on Broad]. The trail alignment runs in a diagonal to the existing rail lines there," said the city's bike and pedestrian coordinator Kyle Wagenschutz.
The solution is to build a bridge over the live rail lines, and the city has received a federal transportation grant for the initial design work. That money will fund an analysis of potential environmental hazards of building a bridge, any drainage issues, and how it will fit underneath the Poplar viaduct and over the railroad.
"At this point, there have been no funds committed for actual construction. We know it will be expensive, several million dollars," Wagenschutz said. "We're hoping the next time the federal funding cycle comes around, we'll be able to request funds. But we have a couple of years."
He said the city will likely begin the process of selecting a design firm for the bridge in the spring or summer. Right-of-way for the quarter-mile from Tillman to Tobey Park was included in the existing greenline's right-of-way purchase from CSX Railroad. The current seven-mile greenline is built along an abandoned CSX rail corridor.
In March, construction is expected to begin on the greenline's eastward expansion. Earlier this month, the Shelby County Public Works Division negotiated a contract with CSX Railroad to purchase the deserted right-of-way from Farm Road to the old Cordova train station on B Street.
"Residents in Cordova have been asking for a better connection to the park for quite some time," Wagenschutz said. "I think this will be a great addition, particularly in helping to connect a large population of users to the park without them having to drive their cars over."
Federal grants will cover 75 percent of the cost. Shelby County government allocated $650,000, and the remaining $550,000 was donated by the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.
There were a couple of smaller hurdles in the path of the 4.1-mile eastward expansion. In one area, an older trussle bridge must be replaced, and other areas will require improved pedestrian crossings.
"The biggest issue is safe crossing of Germantown Parkway," said Laura Morris, executive director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. "That was resolved by a design that the city and county engineers came up with to add back the red light at the railroad track [between Macon and Fisher Steel] that was once there when it was a live rail crossing. It will be timed with the two traffic lights close by at Macon and Fisher Steel so it doesn't have any effect on the traffic."
Pedestrians will cross the greenline at Germantown Parkway at two signals. First, they'll cross onto a protected median in the middle of the parkway. They'll have to push a signal button at the median and wait to cross the other half.
Eventually, the plan is for the greenline to extend east to Oakland, but some of the land along the former rail line to the east belongs to individual landowners.
"The next piece of [the greenline's expansion] that will take you to the Fayette County line is going to involve patching back together the landowners' portions of the right-of-way," Morris said. "But we have had indications from many of the landowners that they would be willing to work with the county."