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MPO awards $7 million for Ecusta Trail, Clear Creek Greenway construction

A regional transportation planning agency on Thursday awarded $7 million worth of greenway construction money to Henderson County — roughly $5 million for the first 5¾ miles of the Ecusta Trail and $2 million for the Clear Creek Greenway in Hendersonville.

The French Broad MPO voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of a committee that had reviewed and ranked 19 applications, selecting 13 for funding.
“We’re real excited to see three sections of the Ecusta Trail on this list,” said Henderson County Commissioner Bill Lapsley, who chairs the MPO. “This is a project the community has been actively behind for a number of years. We’re real excited to see that on the list.”
The federal money through the Surface Transportation Block Grant program is available over five years starting on Oct. 1, 2021, through September 2026. The grants require a 20 percent local match, which can come from local government, private individuals, corporate sponsors and non-profits associated with the projects, such as the Friends of Ecusta Trail.
A construction grant of $5 million would jumpstart construction of the 19-mile rail-to-trail corridor from Hendersonville to Brevard on the old Southern Railroad tracks. In order to improve its chances of getting funding, Henderson County broke the trail up into five segments.
The segments and funding amounts are:
• Trailhead on Kanuga Road at Busy Bend to Laurel Park, $1.14 million.
• Laurel Park to roughly halfway to Horse Shoe, in the Brightwater area, $1.5 million.
• Brightwater to Horse Shoe, $2.4 million.
Not recommended for funding but on the bubble were the Horse Shoe to Etowah leg ($5.8 million) and the Etowah to the county line phase ($3.8 million). It's possibe, Lapsley said, that if the sponsors of other projects can't allocate their 20 percent match, those could be funded in the future.
At almost 6 miles, the Hendersonville-to-Horse Shoe rail-to-trail greenway would be the longest contiguous greenway in the region, MPO director Tristan Winkler said.