Two Selectmen will Oppose Bike/Ped in the FutureMay 15, 2015
by S. Aaron Shamshoyan
An over two-year-long battle will see some progress after selectmen voted Monday night to fund the disposal of about 5,000 railroad ties stacked along Route 28.
The ties were originally removed from the railroad bed, running parallel throughout the duration of Broadway in town, to create a pedestrian and bicycle corridor deemed the “rail trail.” A contract signed by the board with Iron Horse Preservation Society allowed the company to reclaim the metal tracks in exchange for the removal and disposal of railroad ties, along with the resurfacing of the path.
While the trail was resurfaced, the ties have been sitting along the roadway, and repeated attempts to contact Iron Horse have gone unanswered.
Town Manager Keith Hickey told the board it would cost about $74,000 to remove and dispose of the ties, which included $65,000 for disposal and $9,000 for transportation.
Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin said the original plan was supposed to resurface 2.8 miles to trail, which was completed, however the ties weren’t removed.
“Iron Horse would remove all the materials from the trail, create a usable walking and biking trail, with a regrind surface or a stone dust surface,” Goodwin said. “They would then sell the recyclable material to pay for this work.”
But Goodwin said the entire contract was not completed, sticking the town with the disposal bill for the ties.
“The board and the town have the contract,” said Chairman James Keller. “It was our oversight,” he added, since the board signed the contract and it was up to selectmen to resolve the problem. “The board needs to deal with the matter as we see fit.”
Funding for the ties’ disposal and removal would come from impact fees converted to a capital projects fund through a grant. Goodwin said the state recognized the rail trail as a viable use of impact fees since it was used for transportation.
“We call them rail trails, but they’re an alternative of transportation,” he said. “The state recognized bike and transportation paths as alternative transportation corridors.”
Goodwin said there is currently about $94,000 in the capital projects account the funds would be deducted from, but added the town had filed paperwork with the court and was confident there would be a ruling in favor of seeking a reimbursement of the $74,000 from Iron Horse.
“This is, in my eyes, a temporary advocate for this,” Goodwin said. “This does not absolve Iron Horse in any way.”
But the dispute with Iron Horse caused greater tensions then a Route 28 eyesore, as two selectmen agreed they wouldn’t support the Friends of Salem Bike/Ped corridor committee when seeking future board approvals.
“Anything new with the rail trail from this point on will not have my vote. Period,” said Selectman Pat Hargreaves.
“My trust is gone. I don’t vote to support this or any project they’re involved in,” said Selectman Stephen Campbell.
“The board voted 3-2 to expend the funds for the removal of the railroad ties, with Campbell and Hargreaves in opposition. A local company will transport the 5,000 ties to LL&S of Salem for disposal.