The California Transportation Commission this week approved $3.1 million in grant funding for the construction of the Humboldt Bay trail between Arcata and Bracut, possibly paving the way for construction to begin next year.

Officials described the grant as a “landmark,” and a major step forward for the long-talked about and debated project. Combined with a $1.5 million grant from Caltrans and some $766,000 in other funding, the CTC grant is expected to help Arcata cover the balance of construction costs for what will likely be a multi-year building effort.

In recommending approval of the grant, CTC staff deemed the project the region’s highest transportation priority. In it’s application, Arcata laid out the the project's purpose.

“The Humboldt Bay Trail is the backbone of Humboldt County’s envisioned regional trail system, linking the cities of Arcata and Eureka,” the application states. “The project will divert bicycle and pedestrian traffic away from Highway 101, State Route 255 and Old Arcata Road onto a regionally-desired multi-modal trail. Arcata’s section is a 4.5 mile-long Class I, ADA-accessible trail that will provide a safe route between Humboldt County’s two largest cities. The proposed trail will allow the community to eliminate over 60,000 motorized vehicle trips annually.”

In underscoring the need for the project, the application essentially cries poor, noting that the median household income in Arcata is $32,097, compared to $61,400 throughout the state and $53,046 nationally. “The North Coast also has some of the highest gas prices in the country,” the application states. “Furthermore, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which urges families to spend no more than 45 percent of a household budget on housing and transportation costs, measures Arcata at a staggering 61.5 percent on its Housing + Transportation Affordability Index. The construction of the multi-modal trail will provide disadvantaged families and individuals with increased transportation choice, and allow households to live without a vehicle.”

Humboldt County Deputy Public Works Director Hank Seemann said the trail’s first segment, which is set to begin near the Arcata Marsh, will end at a natural area near Bracut, making it an attractive there-and-back trail until it is ultimately connected to the Eureka segment.

Now clear of the funding hurdle, the Arcata segment now needs to secure some permits and one right-of-way acquisition, according to the application, all of which city staff hopes to have in place by March 2015.

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