COLUMBIA — GetAbout Columbia planners who were facing the loss of $872,098 in federal funds for two major trail projects are breathing a sigh of relief after learning the funding will be forthcoming.
The Missouri Department of Transportation told the city in August that the Federal Highway Administration plans to take back $202 million in funds statewide that includes $872,098 Columbia earmarked for two of the longest GetAbout trails: Hominy Branch and Hinkson Creek.
The money at stake totals $410,347 for the $780,000 Hinkson Creek Trail and $461,751 for the $3.1 million Hominy Branch Trail.
Planning Specialist Dion Knipp of MoDOT told the Missourian on Tuesday that if Congress doesn't restore the funds this month, future federal funds for projects such as trails would be used to make up the funding.
The assurance from MoDOT that funding will be provided for the two trails was a relief to Ted Curtis of GetAbout.
"It was under attack, and I'm glad it survived," Curtis said of the two trails.
Curtis on Tuesday said that state officials had not yet told him they will make sure the money is provided regardless of what Congress does; Knipp said on Tuesday he was in the process of contacting city officials.
Last week, Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said he was surprised to learn the city was at risk of losing the money and was trying to remain optimistic that Congress would restore the funding.
Curtis said last week that the projects might have had to be changed to fit a new budget if the funding fell through. He noted that the Columbia City Council could decide to use more of the $22 million in GetAbout federal funds to finance the two trails if necessary. While all $22 million of the GetAbout funds has been budgeted, Curtis said, $5 million has been spent.
According to an Aug. 26 letter from MoDOT, the city was told it would lose the $872,098 in "unobligated" funds. Hood said it was his understanding the city would retain the money if bids for the trail projects were awarded to contractors and approved by MoDOT by Sept. 30. But neither project was far enough along. The Hominy Branch Trail is still in the design phase and land acquisition has just begun for the Hinkson Creek Trail.
The Hinkson Creek Trail will connect the Grindstone Nature Area with Stephens Lake Park; the Hominy Branch Trail will extend from Stephens Lake Park to Clark Lane. Construction on both trails is expected to begin next year.