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.