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Anker: Hurdles in Rails to Trails, Smaller 'Phase 1' Trail Possible

Legislator Sarah Anker spoke with Patch about the future of proposed Rails to Trails project from Port Jefferson to Wading River.

After two informational meetings held in Rocky Point about a proposed trail from Port Jefferson to Shoreham brought big crowds, Legislator Sarah Anker is still weighing the options on the future of the project.

The trail, which would be developed on the LIPA property, could cost anywhere from $8-10 million according William Hillman, Chief Engineer of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, with 80 percent of the funding coming from the federal government and the rest by local government, which was a main concern of Anker's.

The legislator of the Sixth District took time with Patch to speak about the project.

After the first meeting you were on the fence about the project. Has your opinion changed either way?

I am still getting input from the community, what’s most important is what my constituents feel. A lot of those people that were at the meeting were from other areas, they are bikers, hikers and joggers…and I think that’s great, but I need to focus on what my constituents want and there were a lot there that are hesitant about bringing this near their homes. This is understandable, especially in Rocky Point where you have less of a right of way.

What are the major hurdles moving forward?

Of course, the cost. Right now it’s over $1 million per mile…that’s a lot of money for a bike path. We’re talking about millions of dollars that the county doesn’t have. If we cut it back to just a small segment, maybe we can use some of the federal funding and make it more of a doable project.

The other part is the liability. LIPA has not signed off on that and neither has Suffolk County. Those two issues will need to be addressed. I think this has been going on for eight years and now with anew administration and new LIPA, this is a huge issue regarding liability. A third thing that Hillman brought up is the county has to guarantee the path will be there for 25 years, the years of the bond, without any types of changes to the path from LIPA.

What are the options moving should this project move forward?

I’m looking over to the SWR segment. This is what happened over in Stony Brook...they had the plan for a larger trail but they started in phases, so we could do a Phase 1 and see how it goes over in SWR where there are not a lot of homes. I’m going to vet this through the civics, but that would give about a three mile span. I would like to see it maybe start over by the Tesla area and go over towards the SWR schools and then out east towards East Wind in Wading River. It’s a beautiful landscape, you’re touching on to some tourist areas too.

Overall, what are your thoughts on the project where it stands now?

I think it’s a wonderful idea, I think it adds value to the community. I have concerns with electromagnetic fields…if we can get tests and make sure there are not strong electromagnetic fields. There are things that we need to test.

It’s taxpayers dollars and I want to make sure those dollars are put to good use. Those dollars are an investment in to the quality of the community and to helping bring in tourists and increase economic value of the community. Then it’s not just a path, it’s an investment.  

Michael December 09, 2012 at 02:04 AM
The federal government allocates a certain percentage of highway funds for bike paths. This money is now reserved for Suffolk County to use or lose. Suffolk County would only have to pay a small percentage for the path. Don't build the bike path and the money goes to building a similar bike path in another state. Do you want the construction jobs and other economic boosts that go along with this project to go to Osh Kosh Wisconsin?
Michael December 09, 2012 at 02:10 AM
There has already been studies done to show the electromagnetic fields have minimal to no effect so save your money and time. Trail users are only exposed for short periods and they are not living on the trail. What about people who live near the power lines or line workers? They have more and longer exposure. Check the studies already done before spending time and money on your own study.
Michael December 09, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Real estate sells for a bit more and sells quicker if the house is near a great community asset such as this linear park. Sophisticated buyers realize the value of having a bike path nearby. It's a great and safe place for families to bicycle. Having people use the space for a positive recreational activity deters negative use. People who want to do drugs or loiter do not want to be seen and will avoid the area if there are more eyes and ears on the corridor.
MaryAnne Gladysz December 09, 2012 at 12:51 PM
I don't care how much is being paid by the Fed Govt... where are we (the county) going to spend sooo much money on a trail (when there are many other trails) and people are now living without anything due to the recent storm situation... if money can be 'raised' for this, why not raise it help others who have nothing! My main question is WHY ARE WE (who live along the LIPA property) NOT BEING NOTIFIED of these meetings? I've made it to the meeting July and (for a very short while) this past meeting. I heard of both by word of mouth... NO NOTIFICATION from whomever is 'in charge'. It's more than a bit suspicious if you ask me! I get the feeling we're being kept in the dark on purpose.
c garilli December 09, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Sounds like nimbyism to me. It is a positive project that will benefit a lot of people. I have walked the right of way, and from what i have seen, a lot of people who live there, use it as an extension of their own backyard. Guess they don't want to lose what have, and don't care about those who pay the same bills and taxes as they do.

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