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Rails to trails work may begin later this year in Chambersburg

May 21, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - After years of planning and delays, construction on a rails-to-trails project through downtown Chambersburg may begin as soon as August, borough officials said Thursday.

"We've got the plans, we've got the specifications," said Assistant Borough Manager David Finch. Those specifications for the 1.1-mile hiking and biking path have been undergoing a final staff review and Finch said a meeting is scheduled Monday with the consultants on the project, RBA Group of Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Mayor Thomas Newcomer said Thursday the project may be advertised for bids in June, with a contract possibly being awarded in July. If all goes well, he said, construction could begin in August.

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"We're going to ask for a quick start" in the requests for proposals, Newcomer said.

Finch said construction could be finished before the end of the year or next spring.

Newcomer sounded a word of caution, saying, "We've been this close before."

The route of the trail runs from South Street north to Commerce Avenue along a former CSX railroad line. The 12-foot-wide path will be partially paved with a section of crushed stone to the north and lighting on Victorian-style standards will be along part of the route, Finch said.

The centerpiece will be an aging railroad trestle across the Conococheague Creek between West Queen Street and Lincoln Way West that will be converted to a covered bridge, Finch said.

Newcomer said other attractions will be found along the route. The Evening Kiwanis Club of Chambersburg has pledged to build a pavilion on the west side of the Conococheague, across from Chambers Fort Park.

Newcomer said the plans include a foot bridge across the creek that would link the pavilion and the park. The mayor said a caboose now located on Lincoln Way East at the former Cumberland Valley Visitors Center could be restored and relocated near the pavilion.

Sidetracks along the route could become part of a rail-trail system in town and he hopes it could one day be joined with rails-to-trails projects in Shippensburg, Pa., and Newville, Pa., he said.

Additional funding for rails-to-trails projects is sometimes easier to obtain once a project has been established, Newcomer said.

Planning costs for the project came to $97,000 and Finch said the borough has about $630,000 available for construction. About $330,000 is from federal highway funds received through the state.

Another $300,000 was pledged to the project by former U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster and Newcomer said his son, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th, has assured the borough that funding is still available.

It was 1996 when Bud Shuster announced the CSX line through the town was going to be abandoned, giving rise to the trail project, Newcomer said.

He said the Downtown Parking Committee he chaired then as a borough councilman formed a rails-to-trails advisory committee that has been working on the project since that time.

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