By Claire Byun
Special to Mid-City Messenger
City Park’s Marconi Bike Path is inching ever closer to completion after six years of extensive planning and waiting.
Officials have planned a bike path along Marconi Avenue for six years but negotiations between the state and federal government slowed the process. The path is funded with federal money, so the plans required multiple reviews by the state. Once approved by the state, the new plans had to go back to the federal level for approval, then again sent to the state level.
This process of “endless reviews” is why the new trail took so long, according to park CEO Bob Becker.
“For us it’s just a 10-foot strip of concrete,” Becker said. “But the state wanted to be fastidious, so it dragged on.”
The path is set to run up Marconi and meet up with existing bike trails along Wisner and Robert E. Lee Boulevards, interconnecting with the Harrison Avenue trail.
The park’s Board of Directors heard updates on the bike path at their regular meeting Tuesday. Becker said the path’s progress is “thrilling” after six years of struggle.
“It’s really, really important to have this path if you see the number of people who jog in the right of way on Marconi,” Becker said. “It’s a huge safety measure.”
Command Construction was selected to build the new path for $698,888 – several thousand under the initial $770,000 budget. But there’s a snag with some of the funding, according to board member Edmund Schrenk.
Six years ago – when park officials first brought up the idea of a Marconi Path – the state agreed to match 95 percent of the funds raised. Now, only 80 percent of the funds are set to be matched.
“So we’re in talks with the state to try and get it back to that 95 percent ration,” Schrenk said.
Other upgrades to the park’s pathways are partially funded through a $50,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program through the Louisiana Office of State Parks. That grant also contributed to 15 new bicycle parking structures throughout the park.
With all the upgrades, the 1,300-acre park now provides spaces for 100 bikes, a repair station with tools and bicycle rentals at the City Park Boat House.
Susan Hess, board president, said all the new improvements are exciting for board members.
“It’s really a safety issues – it’s dangerous to ride around on Marconi right now,” Hess said.
Construction could start up as early as December, Becker said, and the new path is expected to open by Spring.
“This is the bike path we’ve been talking about for six year. Six long years,” Becker said.