As Mebane continues to rapidly grow, one of the biggest themes among town leaders and city planners is the concept of interconnectivity. The ability for Mebanites to walk or bike or push strollers from one part of town to another through a safe, reliable web of sidewalks, curbs, parks, and greenways.
Mebane continued to show its municipal commitment to interconnectivity by approving $784,070 in its 2019-20 fiscal year budget to creating a new 2.5 mile greenway that will connect the Mebane Arts and Community Center with Holt Street Park.
The proposed greenway path will use some existing utility easements and additional public space, as well as private space the city is purchasing from existing property owners, to create a new hub for fitness and family activities in central Mebane.
Along with the north-south connection from the MACC to Holt Street Park, the greenway will also connect nearby South Mebane Elementary School, allowing nearby students and parents to use the greenway during periods of nice weather to commute to and from school.
“We certainly like the connectivity. It’s also centrally-located. We think it would have some nice curb appeal, and get a lot of traffic,” said Andy Lynch, an Alamance County representative on the Mebane Bike and Pedestrian Committee, which has been working in conjunction with Mebane city officials over the past couple years on the MACC to Holt Street Park Greenway project.
“We wanted to create a different experience here in Mebane that improves the quality of life here,” Lynch continued. “As part of our homework in looking at all these greenways in different communities, a universal theme is that it’s been great for the communities.”
During a series of spring budget meetings, the Mebane City Council was presented with three different options for the MACC to Holt Street Park Greenway project, ranging from just over $850,000 to more than $2.4 million.
City leaders ultimately chose and budgeted funds this fiscal year for a $1.16 million greenway option that would include a 10-foot-wide paved elevated tread track, along with a re-routing of an east-west segment of the greenway that would have required three expensive bridges totaling $585,200, contingency costs totaling $380,840, and construction costs of $225,070.
The re-routing alone saves Mebane as much as $1.2 million in projected costs for the greenway, more than cutting in half the total anticipated cost of the project.
The selected greenway option includes the installation of ABC crusher run gravel, just as the city would install when it constructs a new street within the corporate town limits of Mebane. The subgrade will be 12 feet wide, allowing an extra foot on each side of the 10-foot greenway track.
“You want that sub-base right,” City Engineer Franz Holt explained to the City Council. “You want it compacted ABC (crusher run gravel). You want it wide enough to accommodate whatever you want to do in the future. We want the drainage to be on the outside of the trail. This trail is like building half a road with the culverts that are needed, the drainage pipe that is needed, the swells that are needed, and the water bars that are needed.”
According to City Planning Director Cy Stober, who conducted tours of the proposed greenway site between the MACC and Holt Street Park during Saturday afternoon’s Fitness Bonanza event, Mebane could be ready to move forward with the southern part of the trail as soon as bids are conducted in the early fall.
The north-south segment will take approximately a year to construct, and the entire project is expected to take somewhere in the range of 18 months. For the east-west connection, Stober indicated during an April budget meeting that Mebane had verbal commitments from all three property owners neighboring the proposed path to move forward with the greenway project. The newly-proposed east-west alignment does encroach directly on one local property owner, and Mebane will have to acquire a small chunk of private property to settle that concern.
Stober explained that the city is currently working to help accommodate the concerns of any residents neighboring the greenway path, and that most of the current concerns lies on the northern part of the path closer to Holt Street Park, making the southern segment near the MACC more attractive for the initial phase of construction.
Although the city cannot put an exact timeframe on the full completion of the project yet, it will realistically be sometime in 2021 before Mebanites will be able to walk from the MACC to Holt Street Park on a fully-paved, completed greenway.
Stober and City Manager David Cheek explained that Mebane is looking to bid out the project in the coming weeks, and see what the numbers reveal. Ideally a bid will come in that allows the city to get a paved greenway all at one time. But it will depend on the bids.
If the bids come in too high, Mebane does have the option of holding back on the full paving a year or two down the line, when it can budget more money or secure additional private funding.
“The biggest thing that we need to do is to come up with a game plan on how to get it out for bidding, so that we can get multiple bids on it,” said Holt. “I feel confident that either way we did it, that we would be okay on the paving aspect, if we wait and pave it (in future years). We’ll figure it out.”
“We’ll have to bid this trail out because of the size and the price. What we’d probably do is bid out a gravel trail, and bid out a paved trail,” Cheek explained. “See what the bids come back in. That will be the decision time - whether our estimates are good or not.”
“We feel pretty good about the construction numbers with the way we’re now going through this project,” Rollins added. “We’re almost doing a ‘design build’ style. What we’ve done is found three new contractors that specialize in building new trails. We didn’t know about these guys a year ago.”
In order to bridge the gap in just over $300,000 in funding between what Mebane has allocated for the project in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget and the projected final totals, the city is looking to get assistance from longtime partners such as Impact Alamance, which has expressed significant interest in this greenway project, and also helped Mebane generously with the new Cates Farm Park.
“I think that they (Impact Alamance) really like what this (greenway does in terms of accessibility,” Lynch said. “Accessibility for more people is aligned with what they are about as an organization. I think that’s why they were particularly excited about it. Their response was, ‘That’s a no brainer, given the long-term value of what you’re trying to do.’”
In this 2019-20 fiscal year, Impact Alamance is not covering the full remaining balance not currently budgeted by Mebane city leaders. But based on conversations with Mebane officials, they are optimistic that the organization will assist with some or all of those remaining anticipated costs.
Impact Alamance has an important fall meeting coming up in which they could vote to help Mebane bridge the funding gap for the greenway. It’s possible that they could provide the full $300,000-plus that Mebane needs to complete the project, or whatever amount is necessary once the bids start coming again to finish construction of a fully-paved greenway.
“They (Impact Alamance) have been a good partner with us for multiple smaller projects,” Assistant City Manager Chris Rollins said. “But then last year, we got $250,000 from them for Cates Farm. They’ve been a really good partner. We’ve been trying to get them involved in this project since the Bike and Pedestrian Plan was first created. We’ve had multiple conversations over the years. They’ve always had interest in it. They’ve always said, ‘When you get ready to build it, come see us.’ And that’s a conversation that is finally happening.”
“There’s a good chance they’re going to come through with the other part, so we end up with a paved Greenway,” added City Council member Tim Bradley. “There’s no guarantee (Impact Alamance will bridge the funding). There’s also no guarantee it will come in at budget (during the bidding process). If you get the bids out, it may come in cheaper, and it’s not that big a difference. Or it may come in more.”
“If we can build this for $700,000 more than we’ve technically got in it, I’d be supportive of that, contingent on getting additional funding (to cover the remaining $300,000 balance),” Bradley added. “Let’s hope we get the difference.”