Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb spent his 51st birthday on Thursday by handing out the first grant of his Next Level Trails program—$4.9 million for new trails connecting the town of Speedway with the west side of Indianapolis.
Holcomb was joined by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, Department of Natural Resources Director Cameron Clark and Speedway Town Manager Jacob Blasdel. They announced that 17 communities and not-for-profit organizations will receive $24.9 million for 42 miles of new trail development as a part of the initial round of the program.
The Speedway Trail Association will receive the round’s largest grant. It will be used to extend the existing B&O Trail 1.7 miles east to Michigan Street and 0.9 miles west toward Girls School Road, connecting residential and commercial districts.
The officials made the announcement at Speedway Indoor Karting, next to trail, where they also took a moment to present the governor with a cake to celebrate his birthday.
“It’s the month of May, we’re in Speedway—what a perfect place to waive the green flag to start this race to building out our state from the ground level up,” Holcomb said. “We love racing, we love winning, it’s a big win for Indiana.”
In addition to the $24.9 million awarded through the program, the first 17 grant recipients are contributing $12.5 million in matching value, resulting in $37.4 million total investment for trails. The program requires a minimum 20 percent project match, which can include monetary contributions, land value, and in-kind donations of materials and labor.
The overall $90 million Next Level Trails program is divided into two components—a $70 million fund for regional projects and a $20 million fund for local projects. The first round included $20 million for regional projects and $5 million for local projects.
The DNR said it received twice as many applications than expected—a total of 82 or projects in 42 counties throughout the state.
The requests covered 240 miles of new trails and added up to nearly $144 million, far above the budget.
Diana Virgil, president for B&O Trail Association Inc., there is a lot of demand for expansion of the trail.
“I’ve had people tell me that they want to be able to ride their bike to work downtown, and then ask me when I would ever get it done,” she said. “Well, now we are going to get it done.”
Two other Indianapolis-area trails were picked for funding in the first round. The Big Four Trail in Boone and Clinton County will get $1.66 million for 4.7 miles of trail, and the Franklin Street Trail in Greenfield will get nearly $700,000 for 1.4 miles of trail.
The trails program is part of the governor’s overall Next Level Connections infrastructure program, which is funded through a renegotiated toll road contract that is also accelerating construction of several highway projects.
DNR will open the application process again later this year. Three rounds of funding are planned.