A federal grant of almost $1 million will help get Riverwalk closer to St. Elmo Avenue.
Tennessee will receive $7 million of the $77 million the state asked for in federal grant money, Tennessee Department of Transportation chief engineer Paul Degges said. Of that $7 million, $978,300 was assigned to the Riverwalk.
"It was a long shot and we got it," said Louis Prosterman, the Hamilton County development supervisor who has overseen the Riverwalk project since its inception in 1985. "We've got a good project, I think. The Riverwalk sells itself. The public's acceptance of the Riverwalk shows that."
The county, in a joint submission with Chattanooga, had asked for $1 million.
With the new grant, about $8.2 million is in hand, Prosterman said.
The entire Riverwalk extension -- which would stretch from Ross's Landing to St. Elmo Avenue at the foot of Lookout Mountain -- could cost anywhere from $10 million to $14 million, Hamilton County Director of Development Dan Saieed said.
"This latest award certainly helps move [the project] forward," Saieed said.
The proposed extension will add nearly three miles of 12-foot wide, lighted paths. The current paths are mostly 10 feet wide, but Prosterman said he wants more room for bicyclists.
Construction must begin around April or May of next year and the route must be completed by the end of 2013, Saieed said.
Before Hamilton County Engineer Todd Leamon finishes the route's design and bids are requested, county officials are waiting to hear whether they get a $2.3 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Degges said the state has received about $50 million in requests for grants but only $12 million is available to give. He said he expects the grants recipients to be announced by the end of September.
The county and city must match about $250,000 for every $1 million in grant money.
According to Prosterman's grant proposal to the federal government, the Lyndhurst Foundation has pledged $1 million to the Riverwalk project as well.
Money spent on Riverwalk more than pays for itself, Prosterman said.
"It's brought people back to the river," he said. "Back in the day, it wasn't a place you went to in this community. Now, everybody goes there."