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How wide will Ecusta Trail be and when will construction start?

Joel Setzer, project manager for the Ecusta Trail design, explains the construction plans for the greenway as engineer Christy Staudt and Henderson County Planning Director Autumn Radcliff look on. Joel Setzer, project manager for the Ecusta Trail design, explains the construction plans for the greenway as engineer Christy Staudt and Henderson County Planning Director Autumn Radcliff look on.

We have a length — 19 miles total, 5¾ miles for the first phase that will be under construction starting next year. And now we have a width.

The Ecusta Trail will be 12 feet wide from Horse Shoe to White Pine Drive in Laurel Park and 14 feet wide for the urban section from Laurel Park to the trailhead at South King Street.
The trail width was one of the headlines when the Henderson County Rail to Trail Advisory Committee heard the most substantive report to date on the design and engineering plans for the paved greenway.
Vaughn & Melton, the consultants designing the project, presented the so-called “30 percent design” last week to the advisory board, which oversees the project in Henderson County and makes recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.
“One of the mandates of the project is to stay within existing right of way,” Joel Setzer, the project manager, told the board. Only in a few cases does the design call for a slight “wiggle” from the railroad bed, either to avoid creeks and streams or to make trail crossings perpendicular to roadways for safety reasons. At most crossings, trail traffic will see a stop sign but at intersections where trail traffic is greater than road traffic, cars will have a stop sign.
The 6-mile phase from Horse Shoe to Hendersonville contains six bridges, most of which will likely be manufactured, trucked in and pieced together on site, Setzer said.
Vaughn & Melton designers are producing a story board that will show the stages of construction and include renderings the public can see.
“Our intent is to put out a document that everybody has access to,” said Chris Todd, the county’s director of business and community development.
Mark Tooley, the president of the Friends of Ecusta Trail and a resident of Transylvania County, said he heard a lot of “pushback” against the trail in that county at a recent drop-in event.
“There’s a lot of concern about continuing access (across the trail) for farming and that sort of thing,” he said. “There’s a huge sort of pushback on privacy. You might want to put a lot of fence in your cost estimate” because in Transylvania many homeowners are asking for fencing.
In Henderson County, those who are interacting regularly with trailside landowners say they’re not hearing complaints.
“We’ve had generally overwhelmingly positive comments,” Todd said.
In numerous volunteer cleanup days, organizers have found landowners willing to let people park on their property and have been appreciate that the trail is already looking better.
Although Tooley recommended that Henderson County hold a similar public drop-in meeting to hear concerns and answer questions, Marcus Jones, the engineer overseeing the project for Henderson County, said he wasn’t sure that was needed.
“I would caution not to create a problem by trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist … because I’m not hearing that (negative reaction) at all,” he said.
Missing from last week’s engineering and design report was the cost estimate, which is still in the works amid signs that supply issues and construction labor shortages could drive the price higher than initially projected. The committee expects to get the cost estimate by its next meeting. Earlier estimates have projected overall construction cost at around $31 million.

On Wednesday, updating the Board of Commissioners on the trail, Todd said construction is likely to start next spring.

“I would expect by this time next year there’s somebody walking on some portion of that trail," he said.