A regional trail that slices through two counties soon could be lengthened through the heart of downtown Hugo.

The long-awaited piece of the Hardwood Creek Regional Trail — a half-mile segment from 145th Street to 140th Street — would be built in 2014 if the Washington County Board approves the proposal this week.

In recent years, the county has built and opened trail bridges to span busy roads, clearing the way for 9½ miles of a continuous Hardwood Creek Trail from Hugo north to Forest Lake. It connects with the Sunrise Prairie Trail in Chisago County, making a stretch of 24 miles from Hugo to North Branch.

“Really some great opportunities for trail users to make some significant connections,” said Commissioner Fran Miron, a former Hugo mayor. The trail, he said, has an important role in Hugo’s downtown redevelopment plans.

Frank Ticknor, the county’s design engineer on the extension project, said property acquisition and trail construction would cost $815,000. Most of the cost would be paid with federal funds. The existing trail also would be repaved, he said.

The Hardwood Creek Trail, adjacent to Hwy. 61, sits on a former Burlington Northern roadbed. It has a paved surface for hikers, bikers and skaters. A parallel turf trail accommodates horse riders in summer and snowmobiles in winter.

Some commissioners, including Autumn Lehrke and Gary Kriesel, expressed concern at a workshop last week about a clause in the property acquisition that might allow the railroad to reuse the land.

“We’re entering into an agreement with the railroad knowing we’ll be held hostage for any investments we make,” Kriesel said.

Don Theisen, the county’s public works director, said he doubted the county would have to worry. “The railroad has never given any indication that they’re going to try to restore rail service in this area,” he said.

It’s also possible the trail corridor could become a dedicated transit busway, but far in the future.

The proposal could come to the County Board for a vote this week. If approved, construction would end in August.