|Rail Trail's Northern Extension Receives Full Funding|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
10:57PM / Wednesday, July 11, 2012
|The Board of Selectmen heard good news on the next two phases of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail extensions.|
ADAMS, Mass. — Extending the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail from Lime Street to Hodges Cross Road in North Adams has all the money it needs.
Selectman Michael Ouellette said the town no longer has to worry about finding the money to cover the difference between the earmark and the total cost because additional funds have been allocated.
Selectman Michael Ouellette reported Wednesday that there is enough state and federal funds for the estimated $3.1 million project.
Ouellette, the town's representative on the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the group signed an agreement Tuesday that includes not only the $1.9 million remainder of a federal earmark but about $1.1 million more in other funds.
The Northern Berkshire towns fought and won for the earmark that was initially given to Pittsfield. The MPO had reconsidered its decision because North County officials were busy with Hurricane Irene cleanup during the discussions.
However, while the officials thought they were fighting over $2.3 million, state officials found arsenic on a section of the proposed trail in Adams, which was estimated to drop that earmark to $1.2 million — leaving the two northern towns with a dilemma of finding $1.9 million.
The arsenic mitigation cost less than expected and that earmark was back up to $1.9 million and the MPO has secured state and federal highway funds to cover the difference.
"They found alternatives to some of the environmental cleanups that saved hundreds of thousands of dollars," North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright said in a phone interview Wednesday night.
An additional $711,000 will come from the Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program and an additional $330,000 from Federal Aid Target Projects highway funds will go with $1.9 million remaining in the earmark.
"Adding those together you come up with a total of $3,033,437," Ouellette said. "I thought that was great."
The project is seen a boon for Adams as it completes the trail all the way through town. For North Adams, it signifies a start of something bigger.
"People say 'well its only to Hodges Cross Road' but the point is that it is in North Adams. We're already in conversations about bringing it to Heritage State Park next," Alcombright said. "We think there is great opportunity."
Both towns had already set aside Chapter 90 highway funds to start saving for the difference.
"Between Adams and North Adams, we had come up with $100,000 to complete that — don't even need it," Ouellette said.
Alcombright said he has not spoken to Town Administrator Jonathan Butler yet about those funds but he expects North Adams to keep those earmarked until the project is further along.
"We both committed $50,000 a piece of our Chapter 90 funds. We reserved it and if we don't need it, great. I'd love to not spend it and use it for more road work," Alcombright said.
Currently in the planning stages is the extension of the trail from Hoosac Street to Lime Street. The town has signed all but one easement to begin construction, which town officials had spent a long time negotiating. On Wednesday they signed the largest easement, which was with Stephentown Management Group — better known as Atlantis.
"This is one where we are taking the most amount of property," Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington said. "The rest of the parcels either have no taking or are temporary easements."