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Federal grant funds “final piece of the puzzle” for Suffolk trail

Suffolk Parks and Recreation Director Mark Furlo explains plans for new connections on the Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Trail on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.
Nick McNamara / WHRO
Suffolk Parks and Recreation Director Mark Furlo explains plans for new connections on the Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Trail on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

Suffolk will use the $5.3 million to fill a gap in the work-in-progress Seaboard Coastline Trail.

Millions in federal dollars will help the City of Suffolk connect sections of a planned more than 15-mile trail now under design.

The $5.3 million is part of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, grant program and is the largest of three sums awarded in Virginia.

The Suffolk trail connection is one of 148 projects nationwide selected for federal grant support this year.

The money will help complete a more than 2-mile gap in the Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Trail that Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Furlo called “the final piece of the puzzle.”

“I’m super excited,” Furlo said. “I can’t wait to see this fully completed.”

The trail will eventually span the old Seaboard Coastline rail corridor, stretching northeast from downtown Suffolk toward Chesapeake. Planning for the trail began in the early 2000s and is slated to connect to the multi-city South Hampton Roads Trail.

“That will connect downtown Suffolk all the way to the Virginia Beach oceanfront,” said Furlo.

Currently, 6.6 miles of the trail have been completed with another 6.6 miles being designed. That leaves a gap in the system more than 2 miles wide. Furlo said the RAISE funds will help with that.

“This particular segment that’s being funded … requires a lot of right-of-way acquisition,” he said. “That’s really driving the cost of this segment of the trail up higher than some of the other segments.”

The segment runs from the Cedar Lake Shores neighborhood to Nansemond River High School.

Furlo hopes the project will be done by the end of 2027, providing residents new opportunities to get around Suffolk without getting behind the wheel.

“It could potentially get cars off of the roadways, allows people to commute by bicycle to their work,” Furlo said. “It also provides an avenue for exercise.”

Furlo said plans exist to link Suffolk’s system to Trail757, formerly called the Birthplace of America Trail, which will link Suffolk to Richmond and Hampton’s Fort Monroe. He also discussed connections to other trails like the East Coast Greenway and the Beaches to Bluegrass Trails.

“It's really neat when you think about all these regional trails and the different connections that they make,” said Furlo.

The money going to Suffolk is part of a pot of $1.8 billion in annual grant funds supported by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a joint statement this year’s awards demonstrate how the Commonwealth is “reaping the benefits” of the BIL.

“We’re thrilled this funding is headed to communities across Virginia to support transportation improvements and help make it easier for Virginians to get where they need to go.”

Other awards in Virginia are $1 million to the Town of Rocky Mount and $1.6 million to the West Piedmont Planning District Commission.

Nick is a general assignment reporter focused on the cities of Williamsburg, Hampton and Suffolk. He joined WHRO in 2024 after moving to Virginia. Originally from Los Angeles County, Nick previously covered city government in Manhattan, KS, for News Radio KMAN.

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