Bessemer Rail-Trails project gets underway this month

Thursday, April 6, 2017

This former railroad line along 14th Street at Clarendon Avenue in Bessemer will become part of the city’s first rail-trail.

Exercising enthusiasts will have a new venue in Bessemer in which to walk or bike.

Work begins this month on converting an old abandoned railroad line along 14th Street South (State Highway 150) into the city’s first multi-use trail.

The first phase of the city’s new “Rails-to-Trails” project will stretch from Fairfax Avenue to Berkley Avenue. City officials envision the trail continuing along the abandoned railroad line into downtown Bessemer in its later phases.

The Bessemer rail-trail will feature a paved surface, decorative lighting and rail fencing. It will include sidewalk work along Fairfax Avenue leading to trailhead.

The project is being financed with a combination of federal and local funds. The entire project is estimated to cost about $643,000 and should be completed by October of this year.

In addition to creating the city’s first rail-trail, the city has secured funding to construct a pedestrian bridge over 14th Street South that will connect the rail-trail to the newly constructed Recreation Center and Roosevelt Park.

“We know how important recreational amenities are to a city’s growth and the health and well-being of its residents,” said Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley.

“Converting former railroad lines into walking trails for residents is a trend we’ve seen around the country. This trail will eventually link our new Recreation Center to downtown and be another positive step forward as we reimagine and revitalize the city of Bessemer.”

According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, there are 19 rail-trails totaling 83 miles in the state of Alabama. The agency notes “Trails create a host of benefits, from more opportunities for exercise and transportation to an outsized economic impact on communities.”

Forrest Davis, Community and Economic Development Director for the city of Bessemer, said the trail has major economic benefits for the city.

“The economic impact of Bessemer’s Rails to Trails project will extend from the jobs created, and the economic impact of those jobs, relative to the design and construction of the trail, to the increased economic activity anticipated in the City’s National Historic District as a result of the trail’s use,” Davis said.

“Economic impact, health and quality of life in general will all benefit from the Rails to Trails project.”

Forestry Environmental Services Inc. will construct the trail after being the approved low bidder by the City Council in February.  Goodwin, Mills and Cawood is serving as construction manager.

For more information on rails-trails initiatives and their impact, visit https://www.railstotrails.org/resourcehandler.ashx?id=3629.

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