Napa County agreed to apply for a $10 million grant to help build a $16.2 million Yountville-to-St. Helena Napa Valley Vine Trail segment, despite concerns that county coffers will also be hit.
Vine Trail advocates urged the county to seek a grant from the state’s Active Transportation Program. Miss this opportunity and the county would have to wait until 2025 for the next grant cycle, they said.
County staff recommended against seeking the grant. A report noted that a $10 million grant, if secured, plus $2 million from the nonprofit Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition would still leave a $4.2 million shortfall at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is sapping county revenues.
The county Board of Supervisors made the call. It voted unanimously Tuesday to seek the grant to build an eight-mile Vine Trail segment for biking, running and walking in the heart of wine country.
“I’m very excited about the trail,” Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said. “I’m just nervous about the future money.”
The county should know by March whether it will receive the grant, Vine Trail Coalition Executive Director Philip Sales said. Both the California Transportation Commission and Metropolitan Transportation Commission have Active Transportation Program money to award.
“I think we’ve done our homework,” Sales said after the meeting. “I think we’re setting the level of money at a realistic level. I think we’ve got a very compelling case.”
If the county secures the grant, construction of this missing Vine Trail link could be completed around 2026, a county report said.
The Napa Valley Vine Trail is to ultimately extend 47 miles from Vallejo to Calistoga, running up the spine of wine country. More than 14 miles are completed, chiefly from the southern city of Napa to north Yountville.
A 6.8-mile St. Helena-to-Calistoga segment could begin construction next year. A segment from the Vallejo ferry terminal to American Canyon is near to construction. American Canyon sections are to be filled in with development projects.
That leaves the eight-mile Yountville-to-St. Helena segment as the next big challenge.
“If we are successful in securing the (grant) funds, this project will get us 90% of the way toward the goal of connecting Vallejo to Calistoga,” Vine Trail President Chuck McMinn wrote to the county. “This will be a tremendous accomplishment.”
County staff’s opposition to seeking the grant was based solely on the financial picture.
“There’s nothing wrong with the project,” Public Works Director Steven Lederer told supervisors. “It’s a good project.”
Supervisors wanted to know whether the county was making an ironclad commitment to come up with $4.2 million or more to finish the project, should the grant application be successful.
Lederer said the county could later simply give the $10 million of grant money back if it felt unable to proceed. But he said such a move would come with a consequence – the county’s reputation when seeking future grants.
“It’s important not to fail in these things because it affects future funding,” he said.
Cost overruns could push the project cost above the $16.2 million estimate. But Lederer said the $2 million-a-mile rate is reasonable based on the current St. Helena-to-Calistoga project.
Supervisors talked about various possible funding sources for the county’s share of the project, among them Regional Measure 3 toll revenue money. The county must also spend a certain amount of non-Measure T local sales tax money on bike paths to receive Measure T money for street maintenance.
The southern end of the Yountville-to-St. Helena segment is to begin at Highway 29 and Madison Street in Yountville, where an existing Vine Trail segment ends. Trail users would cross Highway 29 at the signal to the west side of the highway.
Much of the initial part of the trail heading north toward Whitehall Lane would be along the Napa Valley Wine Train easement. From there, the trail would continue along Highway 29 to St. Helena, though it could jog farther west to go around some highway-fronting businesses.
Fifty-seven percent of the route can be in the Wine Trail right-of-way and 14% on Caltrans right-of-way. The remaining 29% will be on 40 private properties with owner approval. The Vine Trail Coalition has talked with 27 of the owners and they support the project, McMinn wrote to the county.
The Vine Trail Coalition has a study by TrailPeople that shows in detail the proposed route for the Yountville-to-St. Helena segment. Go to https://bit.ly/31M1h3v to see it.
Watch Now: Harvest 2020 at Schramsberg
You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.