The day when a cyclist can hop on the Tammany Trace in downtown Covington and ride all the way to Slidell's Heritage Park hasn't arrived yet, but the long-sought goal is slowly getting closer, thanks to a federal grant that will allow Slidell to complete a key section of the Trace along West Hall Avenue.
Slidell had already been awarded $93,000 in federal funds to build a 12-foot-wide bicycle path from West Hall's intersection with Carroll Road to its intersection with Woodlawn Drive, city planner Eric Lundin said. But that wasn't nearly enough to foot the bill.
So the state has decided to funnel another $97,454 in federal highway money to the project. Add $25,000 in matching funds the Slidell City Council approved last week, and the city will soon go out to bid on the project. Construction is expected to take four to five months.
Slidell officials are also pursuing federal highway funds to construct a 14-foot-wide shared-use path on Bayou Lane from its intersection with West Hall Avenue into Heritage Park, Lundin said. The City Council will also provide local matching funds for that project, estimated to cost a total of $160,000, if the grant is awarded.
But the city still faces a major hurdle in completing its connection to the Tammany Trace: the nearly one-mile stretch of West Hall Avenue between the two sections for which it has secured or is actively seeking funding, meaning between Woodlawn and Bayou Lane.
That middle section is by far the most difficult, Lundin said, because it crosses two bodies of water and the city owned right-of-way is narrower there. While most of the Tammany Trace runs along an abandoned rail line converted to recreational use, Slidell must use existing roadways.
To meet safety standards, the city needs at least 12 feet of clearance, enough for an 8-foot path with 2 feet on either side, Lundin said.
The middle section also runs through an older neighborhood with shallow driveways and more cluttered rights of way, he said. Among other things, the city will have to get mailboxes moved to the other side of West Hall Avenue, he said. Utilities will also need to moved.
A plan to bring the popular Tammany Trace into Slidell's Heritage Park via West Hall Avenue …
Plans to extend the Tammany Trace in that area have run into opposition from some residents who don't relish the idea of having heavy bicycle traffic in their neighborhoods.
The city is getting a survey of that final stretch to better determine what will be required to expand an existing sidewalk into a bike path, Lundin said.