Rails to trails project should be ready by June
Area residents and outdoor enthusiasts will soon have a new multi-use recreational trail to walk and bike along in Jim Thorpe.
During the Carbon County Commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Randy Smith, county administrator, announced that work on the rails-to-trails project, which will connect Lehigh Gorge State Park with downtown Jim Thorpe, has resumed and a completion date of early June is expected.
"Crews began working on site earlier this week," Smith said. "We plan to have the project completed for a tentative dedication date of June 5."
He added that so far, things are moving along smoothly and progress has been made.
"As long as the weather holds out, they'll (crews from S&K Construction of Tobyhanna) will be working steadily to get things done," Smith said.
Work on Carbon County's rails-to-trails project began last fall after commissioners awarded the multi-use recreational trail contract to low bidder, S&K Construction. The company submitted a bid of $318,622.50. The trail will begin at the county parking lot in Jim Thorpe and extend to the Nesquehoning trestle, where it will connect with the Lehigh Gorge State Park bike trail.
The project has been in the works since 2005, but numerous hurdles shut down any progress that could be made, and continually pushed back the completion date.
In 2009, the county and Reading and Northern Railroad reached an agreement on plans for the trail. Specifications for the project call for the path to come off the Nesquehoning trestle and be six feet away from the railroad tracks in that area, and arch out 100 feet until it is 15 feet away the requirement specified by the railroad. A four-foot high fence will also be installed 12 feet from the center of the trail as a safety measure.
Last August, the county purchased the last piece of needed land for the project from Frank Foster at a cost of $40,000 plus fees associated with the transfer of the lot. Negotiations for that purchase have taken place since at least 2006.
The county is using a $330,000 grant it received from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnerships program to complete the project.
In other business, the board approved a request that was received from the Carbon County Sheriff's Office for authorization to submit a grant application to the Department of Justice Assistance Bulletproof Vests Partnership Act for the replacement of bullet resistant vests. Estimated cost is $5,600 and the grant will cover up to 50 percent of the cost.