Can We Build the Rail Trail Faster?

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by Sally Arnold, Board Chair

Those of us who are excited about getting the Rail Trail built as soon as possible sometimes wonder, “Why can’t we just build it already?”

As many trail enthusiasts are already aware, the 32 mile Coastal Rail Trail has been divided into 20 segments for purposes of design and construction. But do you know all the behind the scenes work that goes into making even just one segment of the trail?

For each segment, much work must be done before any dirt is shoveled or
asphalt is laid. First there must be an environmental review which could be long and involved, or short and simple, depending on the sensitivity of the habitat. Then the trail must be designed, and construction documents prepared. For example, perhaps the environmental review identifies a pond in which a salamander lives and should be protected. The design must accommodate that, perhaps engineering a bridge over the pond.

There are many opportunities for public input throughout the environmental review phase as well as the design & engineering phase. All that work might take a year or two and is often paid for with our Measure D taxes. Once all that planning is done, the agency that is in charge of that trail segment needs to find money for construction. Because our local money is usually used for the environmental review, design and engineering, we are often in a competitive position for state and federal grants.

Once funding is secured (usually from a state or federal agency) then we can put the project out to bid. Private construction firms submit bids, one is selected, and construction can begin!

Our local Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) staff are working hard
behind the scenes to do years of complicated work before we ever see a shovel full of dirt moved. Thank you RTC for making our Rail Trail a reality!

 

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