When Tex Anderson needs something from Harris Teeter or Earth Fare, he hops on his bike and rides along the West Ashley Greenway.

He travels from his home near Parkdale Drive and Savannah Highway on both the unpaved and paved portions of the bicycle and pedestrian trail, but he likes the paved portion better. "It makes more it accessible to more users," he said. And it probably saves on maintenance costs, too.

Three miles of the eight-mile trail - from Folly Road to Stinson Drive - already are paved, a move that initially upset many users who say the dirt path provides a more peaceful environment for walking and biking, and that it's easier on their bodies.

Work was supposed to begin in March on the next mile - from Stinson Drive to Parkdale Drive, said Jason Kronsberg, the city of Charleston's deputy director of parks. But getting approval from the state Department of Transportation to move forward with the project has been a slow process. Now he expects the approval process and design work to be done by the end of the year, and construction to begin early next year.

Charleston Water System has completed sewer work along that portion of the trail, he said, so the only hold-up is DOT approval.

Paving the mile-long portion will cost $235,000, with $188,000 coming from a federal grant and $47,000 coming from the city of Charleston.

The city currently has no plan for how it will pay for paving the final four miles of the trail, a wooded former rail line that runs behind hundreds of suburban stores and backyards, Kronsberg said. "It's on the unfunded capital projects list."

Kronsberg said public response to paving has been overwhelmingly positive, and many people who didn't like the idea at first have changed their minds about the 8-foot-wide path.

Tom Bradford is executive director of Charleston Moves, a community group working to make it easier and safer to walk or bike, instead of drive. "We wholeheartedly believe paving is for the good," Bradford said.

When trails are paved, more people use them, he said. And it also makes them accessible to people who are disabled and who use wheelchairs.

Plans for the Greenway include eventually extending it from Folly Road to a new park on the Ashley River, and then connecting it to a planned bicycle lane on the T. Allen Legare Bridge over the Ashley River onto the Charleston peninsula. "A wonderful pattern of connectivity is emerging," Bradford said.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.