NAPA -- The Napa Valley Vine Trail, a 44-mile mixed use pedestrian and bicycle path currently under construction throughout Napa and Solano counties, has received $2.5 million in federal funds last from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The funding, announced by Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, will help complete the Solano Avenue segment of the trail  in north Napa to connect to Yountville. The trail will eventually run the length of the entire Napa Valley and connect from Calistoga to the Vallejo Ferry Terminal -- thus providing a link to San Francisco.

Proponents of the trail anticipate it will generate as much as $75 million a year in ongoing economic impact, while providing 60 jobs per mile. The entire trail is expected to cost about $50 million over 10 years of construction, according to the Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition.

“This grant provides the pivotal funding to connect 60 percent of Napa County's population together between Yountville and the city of Napa on a safe walking and biking trail separated from Highway 29,” said Chuck McMinn, founder and executive director of the Vine Trail Coalition, which has coordinated support among 18 different agencies for the trail.  “We are extremely excited to receive it and gratified that our project was recognized for funding from among the many projects submitted from across the United States.”

Funding consists of about an 80 percent mix of public money and 20 percent in private funds raised by the Vine Trail Coalition. The Yountville and St. Helena sections of the trail that were deemed “shovel-ready” last year received federal stimulus monies allocated for transit projects that reduce  carbon emissions or provide alternative transportation methods.

The Vine Trail Coalition said last August that it is hoping to raise $20 million in private funding from 2010 through 2013 to match whatever public funding it receives.

“The Napa Valley Vine Trail is exactly the kind of smart, targeted investment that will strengthen our economy while improving the quality of life in our local communities,” said Rep. Thompson, a senior member of the House Committee on Way and Means. “Thanks to the generosity of the Department of Transportation and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, we’re one step closer to making this forward-thinking transportation project a reality.”

The trail aims to provide alternative modes of transportation for both residents and the 4.7 million tourists who visit the region each year. It will potentially replace the need for 150,000 automobile trips in the process while enhancing bicycle safety, according to the Vine Trail Coalition.

Napa Valley “is the second-highest bicycle accident rate per capita of the nine Bay Area counties and a poor environment for non-motorized transportation, according to the Napa Valley Vine Trail  Case Statement, prepared by the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency and the Vine Trail coalition. The statement also notes the county is restricted in building new roads that would alleviate traffic because of it Agricultural Preserve.