Passy Rail Trail more costly than anticipated

City considers banking rail corridor to preserve for future use
By Ben Holbrook | Jun 10, 2012

Belfast — Cost estimates for the Passy Rail Trail range came in higher than expected, ranging from $1.3 million to $5.5 million, which may require an alternative plan in order to be financially feasible.

The cost estimates were provided by Vanassse Hangen Brustlin, an engineering firm that specializes in transportation, land development and environmental services. Construction of a trail alongside the existing rail could cost up to $5.5 million, versus a trail that goes in place of the current rail for $1.3 million.

Both options would include a paved path that is 10 feet wide

The city purchased the rail corridor in 2010 for $200,000 with the stated goal of building a trail that stretches 2.5 miles. Before pursuing any possible plans for a trail, the city hired VHB to conduct a feasibility study to determine what would need to be done to build a trail.

The less expensive option for building a trail assumes a cost for removing the tracks; however, if the steel rails can be salvaged then the city could potentially save money as a result, according to the cost estimates.

As a possible alternative, City Manager Joseph Slocum suggested the city could “railbank” a section of the corridor, which would preserve it for future use. Railbanking is a term used to describe the process of preserving a rail corridor against abandonment with the ability to then use the corridor as a trail, according to railstotrails.org.

“The question is, do we spend the next several months fine-tuning the numbers? Perhaps the trail along the rail may be cost-prohibitive,” Slocum said.

If the city opts to pursue the railbanking option, operational use of the rail would cease, Slocum said. However, Slocum said City Point Rail would prefer to not have the rail completely removed, so one option would be to only bank the section of rail from the Penobscot McCrum property to City Point Rail.

Councilor Eric Sanders said he remembered hearing from a number of residents during previous public hearings about the proposed trail that they would prefer to see a trail down the middle of the track.

“The sooner we get the public involved the better,” Sanders said.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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