CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte City councilmembers came up with a solution Monday night on the embattled Cross Charlotte Trail that was $77 million over budget.
Officials said the trail will no longer be 26 consecutive miles of greenways after the goal initially was to have a continuous walking and biking trail throughout the city.
In January, Channel 9 reported the city needed $77 million more than voters anticipated for the trail.
The city currently has $38 million to build three segments.
Voters will get the greenway connection from southern Mecklenburg to Villa Heights, but the council said they will be prioritizing parts of the trail that are shovel ready and within budget.
The city wants to use existing rail trail and work with developers to provide connectivity from NoDa to north Charlotte.
From Craighead through Hidden Valley and to Rocky River, the city wants to trade a greenway for a bike boulevard with bike lanes, signs, and a crossing beacon.
Councilman Larken Egleston said this can't be a permanent solution.
"It needs to be a bandaid solution until we get a physical infrastructure," Egleston said.
The city manager said no planning has been done for the stretches of the trail from Mallard Creek Church Road to Cabarrus County.
Councilmember Dimple Ajmera said she was not pleased with the outcome.
"We are picking winners and losers here. We are saying that one is not as important," Ajmera said.
Dick Winters, who advocates for parks and greenways in Charlotte, said the over budget number doesn't surprise him.
"That's a lot of mileage, so that figure doesn't surprise me at all," Winters said.
Winters said the Cross Charlotte Trail is not just for recreation, it is another way to provide some relief to the city's congested roads and leads to a healthier community.
"We're talking about another part of the transportation system," Winters said.
Councilman Larken Egleston said it will take some digging to find out why the estimate ballooned more than $40 million since it was proposed in 2014. He added he is willing to move forward with the project, with a trail one day running from Pineville all the way to the Cabarrus County line.
"We do need to go back and look and see how the estimate was so off, but I think we've also got to continue to make progress," Egleston said.
The most difficult missing piece of the trail is a 1.5-mile connection between Brandywine and Tyvola roads in south Charlotte.
Then, there is the connection between 7th and 10th streets near uptown and there is more to do along the Blue Line and through University City.
Winter said it will only get harder to build the longer the city waits.
"Let's do it now when it's less expensive," Winters said.
In 2019, the city is expected to start buying up land in Plaza Midwood to complete a segment of the trail.
© 2020 Cox Media Group