Plans to connect the two sides of Charlottesville’s McIntire Park are moving forward. The city is accepting bids for a pedestrian bridge that has been a long time in development.

“All design and funding have been approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation, so now is the time to go bid,” said Brian Daly, the city’s parks and recreation director.

The bridge will span the Norfolk Southern railroad line between the McIntire Skate Park and the park’s entrance from Rugby Avenue.

The project has a cost estimate of nearly $2.2 million.

Bids are due March 8. The anticipated project schedule calls for work to begin in April with completion due by November.

The structure is part of a master planning process that began while the John W. Warner Parkway was still being designed. A report from 2004 called for bridge preparations.

“[It] may take several years to obtain easement to have [a] bridge crossing tracks to join the eastern and western portions of the park,” reads a section of that report.

Other elements of the park are still coming along. Fundraising is underway to create a design for the future McIntire Botanical Garden.

“This bridge will offer access into the future McIntire Botanical Garden, which will be located on eight and a half acres in the northeastern section of the park,” said Anita Showers, a member of the board of directors of the garden’s nonprofit organization.

“Visitors in the western part of the park will conveniently cross this bridge and take park trails to enter the garden,” she said.

The Brooks Family YMCA on the western side of the park is on track for completion this summer.

“We are finalizing the timeline for a June opening, which will include a soft opening with community-wide open houses to get people in the doors,” said Jessica Maslaney, the chief operating officer of the Piedmont Family YMCA.

Maslaney said the pedestrian bridge is an important part of the YMCA’s plans.

“We envision outdoor-based exercise, including walking programs through the botanical garden,” she said.

Bids for the new McIntire Skate Park on the eastern section of the park came in higher than the project’s budget of $1.7 million. The lowest bid, $2.4 million, came from the firm Martin Horn.

“We are working to reduce the cost of the project,” Daly said. “It’s still a work in progress.”

The bridge is also part of plans for a commuter trail to run along U.S. 250.

“We are working now to finalize design and land acquisition at the west end near Hydraulic Road and Dairy Road Bridge and will work to build a section by the YMCA once they finish construction of the YMCA,” Daly said.

The city recently awarded a $1.23 million contract to Orders Construction Co. to make repairs to the Dairy Road Bridge. Two previous requests for proposals resulted in no qualified bidders. That work is expected to be completed by November.