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Goffstown considering grant application for rail trail project

GOFFSTOWN — Members of the Rails to Trails Committee met with the Board of Selectmen Monday night to discuss applying for a grant from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which would allow for improvements to the bike trail.

Committee chairman David Pierce and member Lowell Von Ruden, who are also members of the Friends of the Goffstown Rail Trail, presented the grant opportunity to the board.

“The state Department of Transportation has announced a process by which communities may apply for a federal grant by a program called the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP),” Pierce told the board members. Non-motor vehicle transportation projects, including “construction, planning, and design of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation,” are eligible for the grant.

Pierce said that in order to submit an application for the grant, which is due Sept. 26, the interested municipality must submit a letter of interest and have a representative attend a workshop to learn about the grant process.

Pierce said the process of reviewing the grant applications and selecting a recipient would likely take four to six months, and that the winning applicant would probably receive the money sometime in 2015.

“The project that would be undertaken, were we successful in this grant … is the full completion of the Goffstown Rail Trail,” Pierce said. “The enclosure to the letter of interest shows that there’s 2.9 miles, out of the five and a half miles, that have yet to have any development occur on them. The other 2.6 miles have been either properly constructed or are under contract to be finished.”

Pierce said he estimates the project would require $40,000 in grant money from TAP to be completed, adding that 20 percent of the grant could be matched by private donations and other funds.

“The actual breakdown of that type of a match is not a decision that has to be made tonight,” he said. “It’s just a concept of that’s how a match could be obtained. If we were to proceed with the full-blown application, then, yes, at that point, the match has to be nailed down and defined, exactly what the source of the funds would be.”

Pierce suggested that the board schedule a discussion two weeks out, at which time he and Von Ruden would be able to present the exact dollar amounts of impact fee funds, and the board could determine what they felt the town should put toward the project.

“As Lowell and I develop the application, if we want to do that, we need to know what direction to go with the application, and how obtainable the private donations might be,” he said.

Board chairman Collis Adams said he supported this plan of action, saying the board wanted to “spread the wealth as equitably as we can.”

Town Administrator Susan Desruisseaux asked if Pierce’s estimate of $400,000 was based upon hiring a firm to complete the project. Pierce responded that the town would need to hire a design firm, which would work with the state highway department, and that Public Works went through a similar process for its transportation enhancement grant, which was also federally funded.

Adams had concerns that going forward with the letter of interest could be construed as the board having officially accepted the program. Pierce assured him that the letter was non-binding.

Letters of interest for the TAP grant are due to NHDOT by Wednesday, Aug. 6. The board moved to table the item until next Monday.

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