After more than a decade of dreams and planning, the Humboldt Bay Trail project is moving forward.
Humboldt County was awarded $2 million from the California Transportation Commission on Thursday for engineer design and environmental permitting on the southern part of the trail, which runs from X Street in Eureka to Bracut.
"The trail around the bay has been a long-standing interest and priority," said Hank Seemann, deputy director for environmental services of the county public works department. "The funding that was awarded (Thursday) was a long time in the works. I think it's an important milestone."
When the project is complete, a trail will run from the already-constructed Hikshari' Trail in Eureka along Humboldt Bay to Arcata, officials said.
In September, Caltrans agreed to pledge $1 million for a bay trail. The California Coastal Commission approved a U.S. Highway 101 interchange at the Indianola cutoff with the requirement that Caltrans facilitate a separated bike trail and pedestrian right-of-way.
County staff will now spend the next two years permitting and conducting environmental reviews and mitigation studies for issues such as waterway erosion and sea level rise. Public input will be taken along the way.
"It's going to take a fair amount of effort to figure out a good, feasible trail," Seemann said.
The transportation commission also allocated an $842,000 State Transportation Improvement Program grant to Arcata to begin construction on Phase 1 of the rail-with-trail connectivity project, which extends from Samoa Boulevard to the corner of Foster Avenue and Alliance Road.
"It's really exciting to have the first phase of construction funded for a project the community has been working on for several years," city Environmental Services Deputy Director Karen Diemer said. "The Humboldt Bay Trail and our portion is something the community has been talking about for over a decade."
The project is also part of the city's Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan and the Arcata Parks Master Plan.
"Both of those plans had a lot of public input," Diemer said. "The plan for bike and pedestrian connectivity and safe trails or sidewalks separated from lanes of travel, really became a priority."
Four years ago, the California Coastal Conservancy stepped forward and funded the environmental and design permitting for the first mile of the trail, Diemer said.
When the project is complete, Arcata's central business district, Arcata High School and city neighborhoods will all be connected. Phase 2 will extend from Samoa Boulevard south along the North Coast Railroad Association railroad corridor to Bracut.
The city of Eureka is also working to complete its contribution.
Two phases are in the environmental review process, said Parks and Recreation Department Director Miles Slattery. The Hikshari' Trail is open for use.
"We have funding for all the environmental requirements," Slattery said. "We're hoping if we can get the grant funding ... to potentially start construction by 2016."
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.