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February 04. 2014 6:57PM

Selectmen get update on Salem-Windham rail trail

SALEM — By the end of the month, the town could have a better idea of what a bike and pedestrian path from the Windham town line along the Route 28 corridor would look like.

Earlier this week, Greg Backus of VHB Engineering met with selectmen to update them on the progress of the Salem-Windham rail trail project.

The nearly $1.1 million project would be paid for through a federal grant in conjunction with local matching funds raised by the Friends of the Salem Bike-Pedestrian Corridor. Salem will be administering the project under the oversight of the state's transportation department, according to Backus.

"We are in the engineering study phase, and we are required to complete this study by the end of February," said Backus. "We will be back before the end of February to adopt a preferred alternative that will then be carried into preliminary and final designs."

If all goes according to schedule, construction on a bicycle and pedestrian path could begin in 2015.

While the state is mandating that the rail trail tie into the Windham rail trail, Backus said the engineering firm is looking at alternatives to determine the length of the Salem path.

He said the initial grant is not enough to bring the trail all the way to the Methuen line. Backus said there could be additional grants available in the future, however, to extend the Salem path.

"The study area is essentially from the Methuen town line all the way up to the Windham trail where the pavement begins," said Backus. "It is unlikely to cover that entire area because we have limited funds. The rough study area follows the Route 28 corridor."

Although it is still too early to determine how long the trail will be, Backus said the hope is that it will extend at least to Main Street.

The proposed path would be paved and 10-feet wide, according to Backus.

Backus meet with selectmen again on Monday, Feb. 17, and recommend a preferred alternative for the trail. Once selectmen agree on an alternative, the preliminary engineering design can begin.

"I think this is a great project," said Selectman Michael Lyons. "I use the Windham/Derry trail two or three times a week in the summer."

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