Council votes to launch trail project

Columbus Council decided today to set off on building an 11-mile "Rails to Trails" biking and pedestrian path from downtown to Psalmond Road with the trails but not the rails.

Converting old railroad beds to biking and jogging trails was one of the projects promised in the city's 1999 sales tax campaign. Columbus has the money to start the work — $11.7 million — as long as that first stage of the work doesn't include a trolley system, regardless of whether the trolley would run on rails or asphalt.

Either would cost a lot more money, planning director Rick Jones told councilors Tuesday: $6.7 million more for a parallel paved trail so a bus trolley could travel where it wouldn't run over any joggers or bicyclists, or $11 million more to build that parallel trail with rails. A rubber-tire trolley would cost $275,000 and a rail trolley would cost about $1 million, Jones said.

Some city leaders have been reluctant to give up on the trolley, which was included in presentations promoting the sales tax back in '99. But the city has conducted no research to determine whether anyone here really wants to be taken for that ride, and much of the route's already served by the city's Metra buses, said City Manager Isaiah Hugley.

The busiest trolley run likely would be between Columbus State University's main campus and its buildings downtown, but CSU already offers a shuttle service for that.

After considerable discussion, council voted unanimously to proceed with building the 12-foot-wide, $11.7 million trail with no rails and no extra trolley road.