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The proposed $13.5 million project that would create an 11.5 mile trail has just entered planning stages

FILE PHOTO - Bike tire

A joint effort between the cities of Jefferson County, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and the county itself to connect Madras, Culver and Metolius has entered the early planning stages.

The 11.5-mile multi-use pathway would provide a connection between the cities separate from roads, presenting a safer option for people on foot, bicycle or horseback to travel between communities

The trail would largely follow Highway 361 and run from near J Street in Madras to the south end of Culver. The path would be paved, with a barrier separating people on the trail from vehicles on the road.

The project, which has just begun the planning stage, has a preliminary total budget of $13.5 million. Much of this funding would come from a new Oregon Department of Transportation grant program called the Oregon Community Pathway project. The program is designed to help communities create and maintain connections through these multi-use pathways.

The proposed path is just beginning planning, and the project group is applying for a grant from ODOT to do just that. Through the community paths program, the intergovernmental group is applying for a $750,000 grant to plan the first 35% of the project, and another $100,000 to complete the planning.

"There is a great opportunity with this grant to meet the needs of the community," said Sienna Fitzpatrick of COIC. "It could really add value to the community in a lot of ways."

If awarded, the grant mandates planning be completed by October 2023. After the planning stages, a construction grant from ODOT could provide up to $6 million of the $13.5 million total.

Why this project?

The proposed multi-use path appears in the 2021 Jefferson County Transportation Systems Plan. Its goals are twofold: 1. to promote health and community connectivity and create safe and accessible transportation options, and 2. to encourage tourism and economic development.

The project is the most expensive with a listed budget on the Transportation Systems plan, which does also include improvements to the existing Oregon Scenic Bikeway that travels between the communities, and out to Lake Billy Chinook. All the projects involving improvements to that bikeway total around $5 million.

The path is in the early planning stages, and its construction and final details are not set in stone, but the organizers hope to move forward with the planning grant in September, to see what it would take to make this extensive transportation project happen.

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