However, the favored route for the last section, which would run roughly along River Road from the Big Four Bridge to the city of Prospect, will be the final leg of a plan to provide a 111-mile path around the city for bicyclists, runners and walkers.
Some major pieces are completed, such as the Parklands of Floyds Fork. Other stretches, such as the path from Prospect to the new Lewis and Clark Bridge, are in line for construction. And some sections, such as the River Road stretch, are awaiting design.
The latest from loop consultants shows how the 9-mile pathway might look along River Road and through the areas of the Louisville Boat Club, the Knights of Columbus, Champions Park and Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park.
Much of it resembles a wide sidewalk separated from River Road by wide grassy area or fencing. Some existing parkland could be incorporated into the trail, but would have to be upgraded to meet the standards for the entire loop.
However, nothing gets done without money. Much has come from the federal government with the city kicking in matching funds. Finding money to pay design and construction is still on piecemeal basis, and right now all of the available money has been earmarked.
The good news is about 49 miles has been completed and 26 miles are projected to begin construction within three years. Funding for the 26 miles totals $32 million and is only accessible if about $6 million in local matching funds can be secured.
The grand total for the loop project is about $95 million, said Lisa Hite, senior planner with the Metro Parks and Recreation Department.
Metro Parks and Recreation hopes to complete the loop within the next decade, said Milana Boz, project manager with Metro Parks. However, that estimate is based on the notion funding would continue to be lined up and secured each year of the project.
“It’s a big arm-wrestling match,” Hite said.
Seeking money in bits and pieces has allowed Metro Parks to identify low-hanging fruit, or easier segments of the project to design and construct, so that some sections like the Parklands of Floyds Fork can be completed along the way.
Most of the funding has come from federal grants, such as Surface Transportation funds, but Hite said competition for federal funding is fierce.
However, money has been secured for the section of the loop connecting the Lewis and Clark Bridge to Prospect for design and construction. Erika Nelson, Metro Parks community relations administrator, said in an email that Metro Parks is working to finalize this specific section. A project update document from Metro Parks places the projected construction of this specific section for 2018.
Twenty other routes were considered for the longer River Road section, dubbed the Ohio River Valley Northeast, but the recommended route option goes along what Ron Taylor, partner with Taylor Siefker Williams design group, called the River Road/Interurban corridor.
“Almost the entire route focuses on River Road,” he said.
The total amount of federal funding estimated to complete the Loop stands at $75 million, which means the city, or private sources, have to match these funds by approximately $19 million; as federal transportation funding is typically 80 percent federal and 20 percent local. That brings the total to the aforementioned $95 million.
The grant would need a $500,000 match from the city if received. The executive budget has yet to be approved, but regardless if the grant is awarded, the money from Metro would still go toward the Loop, Poynter said.
“It’s one thing we can all agree on,” Poynter said of the support for the Loop from the mayor’s office and Metro Council.
As it stands, only the only completed sections are the Parklands of Floyds Fork and from the Big Four Bridge to Farnsley-Moremen Landing.
The Parklands has always been a popular destination for cyclists, walkers, runners and people training for marathons, but the loop itself has also drawn more people to the parks, according to Anna Rosales-Crone, communications coordinator for the Parklands.
Last year, the Parklands was fully connected to the loop system; the connecting piece, called The Strand, has become popular area, she said.
“The Louisville Loop itself is a very popular area for visitors,” she said.
Not only has the loop gained prominence in Louisville, but on the national stage as well.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization, has been researching different trail systems across the U.S. to make their case to get funding included for pedestrian and cycling trails in a future federal budget, Patrick Wojahn, director of government relations for the conservancy, said.
“We’ve seen across the country how these projects can help transform communities,” Wojahn said.
Hite said the Conservancy reached out to them as they were gathering information on various projects. Wojahn said he heard about the Loop from speeches given by the mayor and that the project is known nationwide as “a project that’s going to be transformative.”
“It’s hard for people to envision what goes on in each of these little segments, but when we start to knit more and more together it’ll be really clear it’s going to be a real treasure,” she said. “It just takes time.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Total miles: 111
Total complete: 49
In design phase: 26
Estimated cost of sections in design phase: $26 million
Federal funding obtained since 2007: $17.5 million
Sections complete: Big Four Bridge to the Farnsley-Moremen Landing; Parklands, which starts on Shelbyville Road at Beckley Creek Park and ends at Broad Run Park on Bardstown Road.
Sections in design phase: Campground Road, Jefferson Memorial Forest, Middletown-Eastwood Trail, McNeely Lake Park section, Olmsted Parkways, Ohio River Valley Northeast and A.B. Sawyer Greenway.