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Commissioners made right call on rail trail

July 17, 2012

The Washington County Commissioners pulled the plug last week on a proposed 23-mile rail trail that would have bisected Pleasant Valley from Hagerstown to the Potomac River. And while we view rail trails as worthy endeavors, we agree with the commissioners that, based on the estimated costs, the project cannot be justified at this time.

Often, it seems that the price tag on projects such as this are low-balled in order to sell them to the public. But if that were the case here, the costs were truly frightening — even considering that they would have been shared with state and federal governments.

The project was pegged at $16 million, and would have taken nearly three decades to complete. That’s not to mention annual maintenance costs and, probably, legal fees resulting from court challenges brought by adjoining property owners.

Not being rail-trail engineers, we cannot guess as to why the construction costs were so high — some bridge work was needed, but even so, this seemed inordinately expensive for a trail.

And if it is going to come at such a considerable cost, we believe close to 30 years is too long to wait to see the completed result. (Not to mention that construction costs deferred 15 years-plus into the future would likely escalate the cost of the project even more.)

We believe there is a time to spend tax dollars for the betterment of Washington County, especially when a project might spur real economic growth, but the rail trail is the wrong project at the wrong time.

When dollars are in short supply and many Washington County residents are looking for jobs and struggling to save, it’s good to see the commissioners say no to this unnecessary project.

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