Chattanooga and Hamilton County officials dodged an upcoming state deadline to negotiate with property owners for land along a three and one-third mile extension of the Tennessee Riverwalk from Ross's Landing to St. Elmo.
Facing an Aug. 31 deadline by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for millions of dollars in state funding, officials said they asked for an extension after several property owners delayed negotiations.
But plans are still on track to begin construction this spring, officials said.
"I've received assurances that they will work it out," said Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson, whose district covers St. Elmo. "Anytime you have the county, city and state involved in one venture, it's incredibly complicated."
The $13.1 million walkway extension that will take bikers and joggers past woods and streams into part of Chattanooga's industrial heritage has been in the pipeline with funding from the county and city.
Last year Gov. Bill Haslam announced a $2.3 million grant and in September the city and county got another $2.8 million grant, helping officials reach their current funding goal.
Eventually the Riverwalk, which now extends about 10 miles from the Chickamauga Dam to Ross's Landing, will stretch to St. Elmo and eventually tie into the Lookout Mountain trails.
But in order to complete the project, the local government must coordinate with Norfolk Southern, CSX, the city of Cincinnati and 11 corporate property owners, said county spokesman Michael Dunne.
Negotiations with two owners have slowed the project, said Chattanooga Transportation Department Director Blythe Bailey.
He said officials are trying to reach an agreement to buy one of the pieces of property and get a loan on another stretch of land.
TDOT extended the deadline for all three of their grants for six months, until March.
"We're totally forging ahead," Bailey said. But county and city officials declined to say where they are in the negotiating process.
Last week, county commissioners approved resolutions to buy 3.2 acres from Stainless River Inc., lease property from Newton Chevrolet Inc. for $1 a year for the next 50 years, and to pay CSX Transportation nearly $33,000 for maintenance projects near the railroad.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6659.