Lexington wins Federal Highway environmental award

Town Branch Commons Corridor has won a 2022 Environmental Excellence Award from the Federal Highway Administration, chosen from among 70 entries from across the nation.

The award is the federal agency’s highest honor for projects that are committed to protecting the environment through state-of-the-art transportation-related innovation, and partnerships resulting in project outcomes above and beyond traditional transportation projects.
With its official opening set for October, Town Branch Commons Trail is a 1.5-mile transformative path through downtown, roughly following the path of Town Branch, Lexington’s first water source.

“Town Branch Commons Trail is a beautiful addition to our downtown, a celebration of our beautiful Bluegrass environment running through the heart of our community,” Mayor Linda Gorton said. “Congratulations to everyone who has had a part in making this project happen.”

The work on Town Branch Commons began during the administration of former Mayor Jim Gray, who now serves as Kentucky Secretary of Transportation. Gray and his staff won a $14.1 million, highly competitive federal TIGER grant in 2016 for the project, which provided the initial funding. The remainder of the funding is a mix of federal, state and local dollars.

Town Branch Commons Trail is a continuous bike and walking path that runs between two parks - Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden and the new signature Town Branch Park, planned behind Rupp Arena and Central Bank Center. The privately funded park is set to open in 2025.

In addition to being a transportation project, Town Branch Commons Trail is a green infrastructure project, bringing lush native plantings and over 300 trees downtown. It includes nearly two acres of planting areas featuring urban rain gardens and bioswales that will store, convey and filter millions of gallons of stormwater.

“It’s easy to see how Town Branch Commons is an improved transportation corridor, but the environmental significance of the project is often overlooked as the infrastructure is not as obvious. After a deeper look you’ll learn a lot of work has been done below ground under pathways, planting beds, and iconic limestone to support healthier trees, plantings, and to address water quality. This federal recognition reinforces the importance of our investment in creating a balanced downtown corridor to address critical transportation needs for all users and environmental goals,” said Brandi Peacher, project manager.

The Environmental Excellence Awards recognize outstanding transportation projects, processes, and organizations that incorporate environmental stewardship into the planning and project development processes using Federal Highway Administration funding sources.

Led by the City of Lexington, a complex group of public, private, and nonprofit partners came together to plan, fund, and implement the corridor. Many key partners of the Town Branch Commons corridor were recognized by Federal Highway Administration alongside the City, including the Federal High Administration Kentucky Division Office, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Division of Water, and others as identified on the Federal Highway Administration website. Learn more about the award by visiting fhwa.dot.gov/environment/environmental_excellence_awards/eea_2022/.