City planning to convert its old rail to a new trail


The project would create a mile-long trail connecting the Ochoco Lumber property to North Main Street

by: JASON CHANEY - The site of old railway tracks that were removed several years ago may be turned into a new bike and pedestrian path.

In 2006, the City of Prineville Railway removed tracks from its railway east of North Main Street.

Since that time, the land has sat vacant with no immediate plans emerging that would put the narrow strip of property to use.

That could soon change.

The City of Prineville has begun work on a new Rails to Trails project that would convert the old railway right-of-way to a new trail connecting the Ochoco Lumber property to North Main Street where it intersects with 10th Street.

To fund the proposed project, City Engineer Eric Klann submitted an application in November for a Connect Oregon V grant. The Connect Oregon grants are provided statewide by the Department of Transportation for transportation projects. Prior Connect Oregon grants have funded construction of the Prineville Freight Depot and Prineville Junction of the City of Prineville Railway. Another grant was utilized by the Prineville/Crook County Airport last year.

“One of the big pushes in this Connect series was pedestrian and bike transportation,” Klann said. “We have a project that fits really well into this.”

The intent of the trail is to provide people who live in the northern portion of the community with pedestrian and bicycle access to the rest of the community.

“Right now, it is pretty difficult if you want to walk or ride your bike,” Klann said. “So, what we are proposing is a nice, wide trail, 10 feet paved, with two-foot gravel shoulders on each side.”

Estimated cost of the 5,650-foot long trail is about $579,000, of which the city would pay 20 percent, 10 percent with labor.

The project would not only provide residents with a north-south pedestrian and bicycling option, it would make use of a stretch of land that would otherwise sit vacant.

“Essentially, that right-of-way at this point is just useless,” said Matt Wiederholt, operations manager for the City of Prineville Railway. “It is so narrow and so long, what would you do with it?”

Consequently, railway staff members have thrown their support behind the project. Wiederholt even took the time to write a letter of support to benefit the city’s Connect Oregon grant application.

“If we can take an entity that is owned by the city, such as the railway, and continue to use it to benefit the citizens, it’s a win all the way across the board as far as we are concerned,” he said.

Klann expects to find out whether the city will be awarded a Connect Oregon V grant later this spring. If they get the money, work on the Rails to Trails project could begin as early as the summer of 2015. However, Klann cautioned that the timeframe is subject to whatever requirements come with the funding, which could delay the project.

“It’s federal dollars,” he said, “and it depends on how many stipulations they want to put on it.”