Winston-Salem hoping to turn old rails into trails

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--Old railroad tracks that used to transport goods in and out of Winston-Salem's tobacco and textile plants in downtown may soon be the centerpiece of the city's newest green-way. 

The Piedmont Triad Research Park and city officials want to turn the railway beds into green-ways for walking and biking. The Rails to Trails project is modeled after New York City's High Line and would reuse the old bridges and paths that already wind through the research park.

Piedmont Triad Research Park President Eric Tomlinson says the project is important to the park's over all mission to reuse the old while promoting innovation and research. 

Tomlinson says, "it has an emblematic role to play about this is how we care about the eco-system,  people and places."

The first phase would transform tracks running from Martin Luther King Junior Drive south to Third Street.   Eventually the trails would connect to the Salem Lake Greenway system.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines says the city is being asked to add $400,000 to the project. He says, "it's heavy landscaped but also includes the rails as an art feature in it. I think it's reuse of an old right of way that really creates an interesting phenomenom."

$3.2 million from Federal Urban Development Grants will be used to fund most of the project, Wake Forest Baptist Health will also contribute $400,000. 

The tracks will be maintained for possible light rail or other future uses.
   
If city council approves the city funding, the project could be under construction by the first of next year.