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Rail Trail waits on funding

Bridges will account for sizable portion of cost

Albany County officials and local advocates are anticipating a decision on a federal grant that could very well shape how soon the county Rail Trail might come to fruition.

The project, now more than 20 years in the making, has secured $2.4 million in funding under the Federal Transportation Improvement Plan, but that will not cover the cost of completing the 9-mile trail, said Mary Duryea, a spokeswoman for County Executive Michael Breslin.

We haven't really set a construction time to begin, because we first want to get the funding in place, she said.

But the county has applied for $5 million from the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, which would cover the remainder of the estimated $7.8 million cost of the project. Officials hope to know the result within the month.

Of the total project cost, an estimated $3 million will be spent to repair eight bridges crossing various waterways and roads. The trail would be unsafe without the work, said county Department of Public Works Commissioner Michael Franchini.

"We're making the minimum changes that can be made to make them safe for bicyclists and pedestrians," he said. "There seems to be a misunderstanding with some people that we're doing something else with these bridges...we just want to make them safe."

Of those eight bridges, he continued, two are lacking decks. The bridge over New Scotland Road has been damaged from trucks colliding with it because it doesn't meet the clearance requirement.

"Replacing it with a premanufactured pedestrian bridge would actually be cheaper than repairing it," Franchini said.

That replacement is estimated to cost $1 million.

Completing the trail in one go rather than building it in pieces will save on construction costs, said officials. But local advocates said if the money doesn't come through, the funding that is in place should be spent.

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