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Project Grant

Planner Claim: The  grant funding will be jeopardized by a narrower trail. 
Coalition Position: 
 Lew Gurley, the former regional director of DOT with over 40 years experience, has stated publicly and in writing that funding is never threatened by the consideration of alternatives. In fact, reasonable alternatives are supposed to be considered.   Yet the planners have not made a good faith effort to consider other alternatives that the Coalition has recommended - neither a 3' width, or a "leave as is" option for RRMSEA.  The Coalition has offered a 3' compromise for over two years.  The Coalition offers to assist the Town in preparing the justification for such a "design exception" for a narrower trail in RRMSEA.

The 6’ width that had been proposed by the project planners until October 2009,  is narrower than the typical guidance for these projects. It is already a ‘design exception’, but the Coalition believes it is not sufficient to protect the environment, and will degrade the experience of most trail users. There is nothing sacred about 6’, except it is as narrow as the planners have been willing to consider. They claim that anything narrower is unsafe.  They claim that any narrower width will not allow two bicycles (or a bicycle and wheelchair, bicycle and pedestrian) to pass side by side on the prepared path. This argument has no merit; we discuss it further under SAFETY.

Lew Gurley, our advisor, has stated that design exceptions are routine in transportation projects when environmental issues are encountered. The key is that a justification must be made. The Coalition has documented ample environmental and social justification for a narrower trail in RRMSEA. Yet the planners have shown no interest in seriously considering a narrower option. They have not accepted the Coalition’s offer to help to develop the justification for narrower trail, despite its known expertise in documenting the biodiversity of the area.

The original grant application submitted by the Town stated that the trail would meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. The 3’ wide alternative that the Coalition has offered as its compromise from the start, meets ADA guidelines. When the original grant application was submitted, the Coalition made the decision to support it, knowing that a 3' alternative met ADA guidelines.  We were under the impression we would be working cooperatively with the Town and Consultant to develop a truly community-valued trail that met ADA guidelines.  Now the planners say the project must go beyond meeting ADA guidelines, but must additionally meet the needs of bicyclists for a two-way trail.  The planners are being inflexible here: we think for 3000' on a low use trail that bicyclists, pedestrians, and other users can coexist safely on a narrower trail.  The actual trail corridor is 10' wide;  passing is done easily on the grass, off the prepared surface, as occurs today.

Many users have advocated simply leaving untouched the trail section in RRMSEA, while repairing the culvert and completing the other trail segments.  The DOT project liaison has cited two local examples where a section of trail was left undisturbed, and trail construction was completed on both sides of an area that was left. 

The Coalition would accept either a “leave alone” option, or a 3’ compromise width.

The justification for either design exception is 1) the environment and 2) the users.

If the trail is widened to the proposed 10' width, the Coalition there will be serious adverse environmental impacts in the sensitive environmental area.  The Coalition has documented three NYS-threatened species in this area. None of these species were known to the Town or Consultant, until the Coalition found them and alerted them. There may be additional protected species present along the trail corridor.  No detailed botanical survey has been done, despite the recommendations by DEC that one be done.  A study needs to be done along the entire trail corridor, which runs through one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the region. No threatened species should be impacted by a project that uses federal or local funds: SEQR and NEPA both apply. 

Beyond the environmental reasons, the trail users have clearly spoken. Actual trail users overwhelmingly do not want to see a paved, stonedust, superhighway, in RRMSEA.