State transportation officials recently approved the city of Anniston’s plan to extend a popular cycling and pedestrian trail 7 miles farther south, a city official confirmed Friday.
Anniston in October presented the Alabama Department of Transportation with a right-of-way plan to extend the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail to the Amtrak station at Fourth Street.
ALDOT approval was needed before Anniston can acquire the remaining former rail bed and start construction.
Toby Bennington, director of economic development and city planner for Anniston, said Friday that transportation officials approved the plan and will soon return it to the city. Then Anniston officials will begin the appraisal process of property needed to complete the trail.
Efforts to reach ALDOT officials were unsuccessful Friday.
The city must then negotiate a deal with the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board, which owns approximately 5 miles of the former tracks from Glade Road to 25th Street, and Norfolk Southern Railroad, which the city contends owns the rest of the land.
“It's just a process that we have to go through, but I’m anxious to get moving on it and to get moving forward,” Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said Friday.
Officials submitted the right-of-way plan to ALDOT after city staff and state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, met with the Department of Transportation in October.
The Chief Ladiga Trail has ended at Michael Tucker Park, just inside Anniston’s northern city limit, since 1998. Two years before that, the trail’s first 8.9-mile portion opened in Piedmont. The former rail line, now a cycling and pedestrian trail, becomes the Silver Comet Trail at the Georgia line, and continues to Smyrna, Ga.
The city has received $520,000 in federal money from the Calhoun Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to buy land to extend the trail.