The pre-construction planning for Rails to Trails - a proposed bike and jogging path running along the Long Island Power Authority transmission lines - is moving forward.
Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone signed a 25-year agreement reached between the county legislature and LIPA on July 30 that will allow the county right-of-way to utilize the underused land to create a route for pedestrians and recreational activities such as jogging, biking and nature walks.
"Rails to Trails is an asset to the
community. It will provide a safe outlet for people to run, walk and
bike," said Legis. Sarah Anker, D - Mount Sinai. "The project will
also create a green transportation alternative that will help economic
development, reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and encourage
Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn, D-Setauket, who co-sponsored the Rails to Trails bill said the right-of-way agreement is a major milestone for moving the project forward.
"This kind of trail is so important to a community and I am so excited for the residents who live around here and will be able to take advantage of it," Hahn said.
The first phase of the project will focus on a roughly 2.5 mile stretch from Randall Road in Shoreham through the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe's property to Wading River Manor Road in Wading River.
Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, said she is happy to see the project will be starting at the future museum's site. "We believe our project, the science center, and the Rails to Trails project are two complimentary and collaborative projects that will go hand-in-hand with what our goals are and the goals of the community and local government," Alcorn said.
Gil Anderson, commissioner of Suffolk's Department of Public, said that the right-of-way agreement will allow the county to make an agreement with New York State Department of Transportation, hold community meetings to get input then drawing up a final engineering plan.
"I can't give you any promises at this time that next year we'll be in construction, but we are moving forward," Anderson said.
Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, said the project has been more than a decade in the works but he is still hopeful of seeing it come to fruition.
"From here on, I see a clear path ahead. Hopefully this becomes a reality in a very short period of time," Bail said.
Bryan Lilly, president of the Shoreham Civic Association, said the Rails to Trails project is sorely needed, citing recent fatal hit-and-run accident on Canal Road as a sign of dangers of running or biking on local roadways.
"A lot of people who have opposed the tail have misgivings but when it's built they will see that it’s not true," Lilly said. " What we really need is a safe route."
Anker said her future vision of the Rails to Trails pathway is a roughly 10-mile long round from Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai to Wading River Road in Wading River that runs roughly parallel to Route 25A.
Bellone called the project an emblem of what he would like to see happening across Suffolk County.
"It's not only demonstrating that we can get things done that have some complexity or difficulty to it, but because we need to take advantage of the amazing assets that we have here in a way that leverages a great quality of life and sustains a great economic downtown," Bellone said.