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More funding a plus for rail-trail plan

September 24, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A 1.6-mile, $1.2 million rail-trail through Chambersburg could become a reality in less than two years under a plan reviewed Wednesday by the Borough Council.

"Funding sources for bike trails just got a tremendous infusion of funding" through the federal highway bill passed by Congress earlier this year, according to Jennifer Toole, a planning director for RBA Group in Columbia, Md.

The consulting firm helped the Rail-Trail Advisory Committee with a recently completed feasibility study for the project. Toole said the highway bill more than doubled the funds available to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for "transportation enhancements" such as biking trails.

Toole said there is $120 million available for such projects in the state with no cap on any individual project. Additionally, she said the state will now pay up to 100 percent of the construction costs for a rail-trail, up from 80 percent in the past.

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She said the borough would have to come up with the design and engineering funding, but could get much of that from state or federal grants, such as the Keystone Grant program that paid for the $38,000 feasibility study.

The plan calls for a trail running from U.S. 11 in the borough's south end to Commerce Street in the north. The committee is recommending a 10-foot-wide as-phalt pathway along the route.

The trail would pass through an industrial area in the south, into the borough's downtown and then to a more sylvan setting in the north. Toole said the north and south sections would be open from dusk to dawn and the downtown section would be available 24 hours a day.

Toole said it would cost less than $7,000 a year to maintain the trail, but the committee has been talking to Coca-Cola and Pepsi about sponsorship deals to handle those expenses.

"We believe it will stand alone," said Thomas Newcomer, a councilman and chairman of the advisory committee.

Toole said the trail could also promote economic development along its route from bike rental shops, cafes, ice cream shops and other businesses.

Newcomer recommended that the council approve a supporting resolution at its Oct. 14 meeting and then begin applying for the necessary state and federal grants. He said an authority should be created to build and maintain the trail.

Toole said the trail could eventually be extended through Wilson College and the Penn Hall retirement community and eventually link up with a proposed trail in the Shippensburg, Pa., area.

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