Marietta talks River Trail expansion

MARIETTA — Marietta City Council held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss expansion of the city’s River Trail, which spans 3.28 miles, to add 0.84 mile and connect the trail to the city’s eastern-most stores such as Aldi and Wal-Mart to the downtown walking route.

The trail runs from the Indian Acres parking lot by the Washington County Fairgrounds to the city’s wastewater treatment plant on East Eighth Street. The addition is in final design with a projected cost for design at $240,789.

“That includes this newest change order based on notes made by (the Ohio Department of Transportation),” said Eric Lambert, city project manager. “The original proposed change order was for $85,878, but we had a lot of discussions about it and went back and forth to bring that down to $16,535.”

City Engineer Joe Tucker said of the $16,535 change order, only $3,307 would be funded by a local match.

“And of the total project our local share in total is only 6.5 percent of the project cost,” he said.

Lambert said much of the suggestions from ODOT that were taken out as that price was negotiated were environmental study updates to be done along the Ohio River and Duck Creek shorelines where the addition is planned to run.

“That environmental work instead will be done by us and by ODOT District 10,” he said.

Tucker said environmental updates include studies of the soil, which trees would be removed and other factors and that ODOT has offered to complete that work with the city without charge within the project.

Construction estimates for the addition are projected to stay under the budgeted $2.5 million, said Lambert.

“But those numbers change, just like in previous phases as the project gets underway the cost changes from the time the budget is approved to what is closed out,” he said. “Phase III came in under the original contract amount.”

At council’s Wednesday meeting seven locals who live within and outside of the city’s borders showed their support for the trail and explained its differing uses from economic development, to health and safety of residents.

“This morning driving in from Reno to work I passed several people walking below the interchange beneath the interstate,” said Ryan Smith, who is the co-owner of the Marietta Adventure Company in Marietta. “Two were elderly women and one had a walker. They represent a lot of people in this community that don’t have vehicles but still go out along (Pike Street) to grocery shop.”

Others noted the use of the trail as it currently stands as an easy access to the Lafayette Shopping Plaza where restaurants and a movie theater are easily accessed from the trail and that an extension of the asset would further encourage healthy lifestyles, and connect the hotels east of the interstate to the downtown.

But leading into next week’s vote on the change order Councilwoman Cindy Oxender still expressed reservations as to the cost of the project.

“I have used the trail and do think it’s a wonderful asset, but when are we going to hit that debt ceiling?” she said after the meeting. “I will have to think more on this and would like to hear more from residents of the city on their thoughts rather than those who live outside of city limits.”

Phase I of the project, from the Indian Acres boat ramp to the Putnam Bridge, was completed in 2005. Phase II extended the trail from the bridge, along Post Street, Ohio Street, and then along the Ohio River levee to South Fourth Street. Phase III added the span from South Fourth Street to Jefferson Street, behind Kmart. The project will next go out of order, with Phase V being the section leading to Wal-Mart.

River Trail Phase IV has yet to be broached by the current city council for funding resources until the privately owned Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge can be renovated.

Phase V will continue the trail behind Kmart, around the I-77 abutment and head north toward the off ramp from the interstate before crossing Duck Creek across from the Quality Inn. It will continue behind that hotel and the Aldi before ending at Capt. D. Seeley Memorial Drive where the Pioneer Golf Center’s parking lot sits.