ATT I-40 span a bridge over troubled water

What the American Tobacco Trail bridge over I-40 is supposed to look like — if it gets built.

The long-awaited pedestrian bridge over I-40 in Durham that represents the last link in the 22-mile American Tobacco Trail — the link that was supposed to begin construction later this summer and open next year — has been derailed.

Turns out the project will cost about $2 million more than Durham anticipated, $2 million that the city must now try to come up with in a period of extreme cutbacks in across-the-board government spending.

Durham had allotted $5.8 million for the project, which includes the bridge and 4.2 miles of trail, from N.C 54 south to the Chatham County line. But when bids from eight contractors were opened on July 15, the lowest, from Blythe Construction, was $7.75 million.

Asked about the discrepancy – why Durham’s estimate was so far off the mark — project manager Byron Brady said the bid package, which was advertised beginning in April, was put together by a consultant. Yet even as far back as 2007, Durham acknowledged the project could cost as much as $6.3 million.

As for what funding options the city might have, Brady said, “I’m not at liberty to say.”

Dale McKeel, Durham’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, was likewise mum: “We are looking at several options. There are no dead ends at this point.”

One place they won’t be getting additional money is from the N.C. Department of Transportation, which is already into the project – known as Phase E of the American Tobacco Trail – for $4.7 million.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any money to add to the project,” said Kumar Trivedi, interim director of NCDOT’s Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation. “We have some money, but it’s already being spent on existing projects.”

Trivedi said he suggested that Durham look into TIGER grants — transportation-specific money available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — and check with DOT’s local programs branch for TIP enhancement projects.

One possibility Durham will consider is what it might be able to do with the $5.8 million it does have. Brady and McKeel would only say that’s a possibility; Dave Connelly with the Triangle Rails-to-Trails Conservancy had a couple of thoughts on the matter.

“We discussed this very question Monday night at the TRTC meeting,” said Connelly, a longtime member of the non-profit. “Since the southern half of this project (the abandoned rail bed) is already good enough to use, it would seem logical to focus new construction work at the north end (NC 54/I-40) and proceed south until the money runs out.

“But,” he’s quick to add, “all the permissions were painstakingly obtained for the complete 4-mile project, and making any changes would likely require new signatures, an agonizing process.”

Determined not to be deterred, Connelly has suggested a funding alternative to Durham, an alternative that may not be as far-fetched as it seems in these days of political parsimony.

“I wonder if the City could set up a charitable fund and allow donations to ‘bridge the gap’ in this project funding.  Since 3,038 people have signed a 2006 online petition

, at least some of them could put their money where their mouth is.”

7 thoughts on “ATT I-40 span a bridge over troubled water”

  1. I for one would donate some money towards the project as I know that I would definitely be using the trail but how can we make sure that the money would actually go towards the project.

    Also, have you thought about going outside the state for bids. Nothing against local contractors but I know how they work together towards bidding.

    1. Also have you thought about getting some local business as sponsors. I know when I ride my bike up in Canada, their trails are great and one of the main reason is due to the fact they have local business sponsoring the trail, you see their banners ( nice wood plaques) on the side of the trail.

      Off 54 and Fayetteville road, I always see bicyclist park either at Starbucks, Kroger, Harris Teeter and Subway so perhaps they might be willing to sponsor part of the trail/bridge.

      Just a thought!

      1. Considering the benefit to Streets at Southpoint, I would think they would be a prime candidate.

        How about a benefit/fundraiser? I wonder what Sting is up to these days: “We are the bridge …”

  2. We just need a great communicator/sales person. Perhaps Pres Obama could help us out, lol!

    Seriously, there are allot of great stores in that area that should be able to help us out, even if it’s a small donation, any donation is better than nothing. Forgot about REI down the road.

    I can’t ask most of those retailers since they’re my customers.

    WANTED> Great Sales person!!

  3. Wow, that is sad. 5.8 MILLION dollars can’t build a bridge and a foot path. Does it HAVE to be paved? Is there nothing that can be done?
    I don’t think asking 3,000 people for $2,000,000 is the right answer. I have a shovel and rake. I can rent a bobcat.. I can probably do 1 million’s worth in a weekend with a few friends.

    Government contracts are as efficient as governments… So, this is probably a 2-3 million dollar job.. but it’s a GOVERNMENT job… let’s get rich!

  4. I’m with Carl, would be more than happy to break the old back for a weekend, have done so for ATV and Snowmobile trails so can do for Bike/walking Trail but still say that we should try to get some sponsor if not for the budget perhaps for up keeping part of the trail or just advertisements.

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