Trail system to link Jefferson County paths unveiled

The Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System -- a visionary, long-term plan for knitting Jefferson County together with a massive network of bike lanes, sidewalks and greenways -- was unveiled today to a crowd of more than 250 that filled the Steiner Auditorium of the Birmingham Museum of Art Tuesday night.

The routes, which can be explored on the system's website, could include up to 200 hundred miles of greenways and trails and 500 miles of street-based bicycle and pedestrian paths. Corridors run along creeks and rivers in the county to form the principal arteries of the proposed network, but deep below the overview level are detailed paths navigating individual neighborhood streets.

On some routes, abandoned rail corridors are eyed for conversion to trails. In other places, the plan proposes to put wide, multi-lane roads on a diet, slimming them down and using the extra real estate gained for sidewalks and bike paths.

Wendy Jackson, the executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust, waited until late in the presentation to reveal the estimated pricetag of $200 million. And she was quick to put the cost in context.

She said the system would be built mile by mile and may take 30 years or more to complete.

It won't be the work of one city. The routes in the plan travel through 29 different cities and reflect the wishes of more than 3,000 residents who turned out for meetings and contributed ideas during the planning process that the Land Trust organized.
As more people become aware of the potential, Jackson predicted that support will build to find the funding from local, state, private and national sources.

"Our plan is a long-range plan. Yes, $200 million is a big number. We will build it one voice and one mile at a time," she said.
The entire system has been added to the Regional Planning Commission's Long Range Transportation Improvement Plan, making it eligible for federal matching funds. But it will be up to individual cities to decide which projects to pursue and what level of priority to put on them.