On the trail: Augusta picks up grant funds for project

Chad Frey
The Redbud trail, a project to connect Augusta, Andover and Wichita with a bicycle/walking path along an old railroad line, got a shot in the arm with grants to Augusta.

The Redbud Trail — an old railroad line being converted to a pedestrian trail — got a shot in the arm this week.

The city of Augusta picked up a $55,000 grant for the construction of a trail in the city. That grant, from the Sunflower Foundation, can be coupled with a $75,000 cost-sharing grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation awarded this summer to push the $240,000 project along.

“Our community has a weak pedestrian sidewalk network. This project creates a connection between existing sidewalk networks on Lulu Street and Frisco Street that will allow users to travel from Walmart, across downtown, north up Ohio Street all the way to Shryock park (after 2021 N. Ohio Project) without getting off of a sidewalk/trail,” said Josh Shaw, city manager of Augusta..

It is part of a larger project — The Augusta-Andover Rail Trail Initiative (AARTI).

The AARTI recently conducted a survey of trail use on the 6-mile Eastern Redbud Trail for the City of Andover. The town with a population of 14,000 and four miles of the trail traverses rural Butler County.

Using a trail camera from June 18 to July 6 AARTI determined that the average number of cyclists per day was 38 and the average number of joggers/walkers per day was none for a total of 47 trail user visits per day. According to AARTI, assuming 200 temperate days per year, this would make 9,400 trail user visits per year.

“ \The trail also has an economic development benefit in that it will draw pedestrian traffic to our downtown area, which will help create activity for local businesses,” Shaw said.

This project creates pedestrian access to the Augusta downtown park, and downtown, that will not require kids and families to cross U.S. Highway 54/400.

While the project is important for Augusta, and the future of the Redbud trail, there will remain a hole. That hole is a three-mile stretch west of Augusta that includes finding a way to crss US 400.

“U.S. 400 is going to take a little time,” said Rick Sroufe with the AARTI. “KDOT has approached Augusta, Andover, and Butler County about a future cost share with KDOT for the bridge over 400.”

But it is unclear when that might occur. Shaw said the city of Augusta, at this time, is not interested in work on the trail outside the city limits, choosing instead to improve pedestrian infrastructure within the city.

Plus, in addition to the Augusta project that can now move forward, this is a project moving forward in Andover to attend to as well.

“We submitted a joint grant with the City of Andover last year to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks for construction of a new restroom at the TrailHead by the high school,” Sroufe said. “They won that grant - so we are waiting to begin construction.”

Andover Augusta Rail Trail Initiative Inc. began in 2014 with the mission of creating a trail that will connect the city of Wichita’s trail system to Andover and Augsta. The Redbud Trail is now about 6 miles long in the Andover community area and currently connects into Wichita. THe goal is to grow the Redbud to about 20 miles.

“We have great partners- Augusta is our newest and we are off to a good start,” Sroufe said. “It’s another step to connect the Redbud Trail in Andover. We still have work to do.”

The Redbud Trail follows the historic corridor of the former St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad (later changed to Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail corridor (BNSF)), construction began in 1880.The first passenger train went through Andover in 1885 and the last passenger train in October 1960.

The rail corridor stretches 11 miles in the City of Wichita of which six miles are paved concrete. The trail passes city parks, employment hubs, the Wichita State University campus and intersects with the K-96 bicycle path. The Redbud Trail continues east to Butler County, where the City of Andover has a 10-foot-wide concrete hike/bike path to 13th Street.

The city of Augusta is able to move forward with improved pedestrian infrastructure and a walking/biking trail after getting a pair of grants recently.