McIntire Park bike-pedestrian bridge concept map - February 25, 2013 Credit: Credit: City of Charlottesville

A proposed $1 million bike and pedestrian bridge will provide a link missing for about 80 years, said Chris Gensic, Charlottesville’s park and trail planner. The span will connect two sections of McIntire Park long divided by train tracks.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Gensic said.  “People have seen the need for this bridge probably since the 1930s, but definitely on paper since the 1970s.”

Gensic shared the current plans with a half-dozen local residents at a public meeting Monday in CitySpace. He said the bridge would serve multiple purposes beyond just linking the two sides of the park.

“This project is a piece of a much larger trail system,” Gensic said. “[The bridge] extends the 250 bypass trail that’s currently under construction [further east], … which gets us closer to downtown.  These pieces all come together so we have one very long trail system.”

Jordan Phemister, a Belmont resident and member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board said she came to learn more about the design process.

“I hope to use it with my kids, and my husband could potentially use it as a commuter to get up Route 29,” Phemister said.  “He already does that, but he has a pretty convoluted way of getting there on his bike right now.”

A series of decisions over the past year has clarified the future of McIntire Park and its uses.  Legal challenges to the Meadow Creek Parkway interchange with the U.S. 250 bypass and a new YMCA facility have concluded, allowing both of these projects to proceed.

Additionally, City Council approved a master plan for McIntire Park’s eastern side in September, which calls for the elimination of golf by 2016 in favor of a new botanical garden.

“I think it is a great thing to connect all these different pieces of the puzzle to make McIntire feel more like a whole rather than a bunch of different parts that aren’t really connected,” Phemister said.

The construction budget includes $400,000 that was previously allocated and another $600,000 that is being pursued from state and federal grant sources. Gensic said a decision on the grant application will be made in June. If all goes well, construction may begin as early as January 2014, he said.

The city has a design budget of about $90,000 and is working with engineering firm RK&K, which also designed the Meadow Creek Parkway interchange.  The bridge design is 30 percent complete, Gensic said.

Vertical clearance for freight trains is included in the plans.

“We have designed a truss bridge to stay 23.5 feet above railroad tracks,” said RK&K’s lead designer Gary Johnson.  “With a truss, the beams can all be above the deck.”

The bridge also will include safety features the railroad requested, such as a full fencing over the tracks.

“It will be an enclosed see-through tunnel,” Gensic said.

Johnson said the initial plans submitted to the railroad did not include the enclosure, but it was immediately requested.

As a truss bridge, it will have a concrete deck that is integral to the structure.  Other architectural and design details, such as railings and abutment surfaces, will be determined with further public input once the budget is certain later this year.

Bridge concept elevation by RK&K