By Brandon Martin
As the price of materials and skilled labor rise across the country, the cost to complete section 6A of the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail could end up carrying a higher price tag than originally expected.
Henry County Engineering Director Tim Pace said the county is still in the process of configuring bid documents to see what construction can be completed under this year’s funding.
“When the economy turned, construction costs across the board went up about 20 percent,” he said of most construction jobs planned by the Public Service Authority.
He said since construction costs have “skyrocketed” that the estimates received so far “would exceed what we have in our budget.”
At the moment, Pace said the county is looking for “what gives us the greatest flexibility to construct as much as possible right away” and then “evaluate if and what could be constructed next fiscal year.”
He said that there are still some “loose ends to tie up” and that “COVID-19 caused setbacks with personnel” and supplies. Pace is hopeful to “be out of bid proposal in early or late fall.”
Section 6A will connect the 4.5-mile original trail with Section 6B which runs from a trailhead on Spruce Street down to the Smith River Sports Complex. When 6B was originally constructed at the end of 2019, Pace said that 6A was expected to cost approximately $1.7 million.
In December 2017, The Harvest Foundation awarded nearly $1.4 million in grant funding to Henry County to construct section 6B. Site work began in January 2018, and originally the nature trail was slated to open by the end of that year. Due to weather delays, the project was delayed.
The first 4.5 miles of the trail were built in 2010, after the nonprofit Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) approached Henry County with the idea to turn part of a defunct Norfolk Southern rail line into a nature trail. This section starts at Virginia Avenue in Collinsville and stretches east through the city of Martinsville.
There is a gap of about 2.7 miles between the ending of the original trail at Mulberry Creek, and the newest section 6B.
When Section 6A is completed, the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail will encompass 10 miles one way in Martinsville-Henry County.