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Bike path hits $1.5 million mark
City officials have approved two more sections of bike path along Hatch Road that cost $826,249.

Coupled with the bike path that's already been built, the 10-foot wide bike path extending from Central Avenue to Boothe Road will have cost a jaw-dropping $1,502,989.

"It's a lot of money," admitted City Engineer Glenn Gebhardt, who inherited the project from the Joe Hollstein era. "A big chunk of that is due to the latest section which is the most expensive."

At its meeting on Dec. 13 the council approved a construction project of a bike path - it runs south of Hatch Road - between Central Avenue and approximately south of Payne Avenue at a cost of $603,000. It also approved extending a bike path east from Mitchell Road to Boothe Road at a cost of 223,239.

The money is not from the general fund but uses federal congestion management and air quality mitigation money intended to promote non gas polluting forms of transportation and reduce air pollution.

Only two sections of bike path have been constructed with only the segment between Moffet Road and Mitchell Road having been in use. A 2,000-foot section that runs west of Moffet goes absolutely nowhere. The paved trail cannot connect with Central Avenue because of the fenced-in TID electrical substation at the corner of Hatch and Central. The canal, of course, blocks off any access to the north.

The city's remedy is to underground a section of the Turlock Irrigation District canal and link the path to Central Avenue.

In order to do the project, the city has been working with TID to obtain the easement.

Ross F. Carroll Construction was the lowest bidder on both segments of the project. Work will take place this winter as the canals will not be filled with irrigation water. The city must be out of the canal by the end of February.

Gebhardt said the costs of the section east of Central Avenue is due to a number of factors, including the fact that high voltage lines must be supported during construction and the short construction window period.

After the two latest sections are completed, the city will be looking to link the path from Central Avenue on the north side of Hatch Road to Richland Avenue. That section will be expensive as well with sections of the canal being placed in underground pipes.

The city has been plagued with problems since the outset of the Hatch Road bike path project. The first phase, which cost $233,363, linked Mitchell Road with Moffet Road, giving bicyclists a safer place than riding on the canal bank or on busy Hatch Road. But construction crews from Teichert Construction discovered four elderberry bushes. The bush is protected by law since it is the primary habitat of the endangered species of the elderberry beetle. The city had to make up for the loss of the bushes through a $14,000 conservation mitigation measure.

Gebhardt, sensitive to those who feel the project's costs are frivolous given the state of the economy, noted that the U.S. government has stringent rules for the use of the funds.

He defended the city's quest to build a regional bike route saying that while many may not use the bike path, "ultimately 50 years from the now the regional bike path system will be used more as people become more eco-friendly."