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Windham looking to connect trails under I-93 crossing

WINDHAM — Town officials are working with the state Department of Transportation to connect two public recreation trails via a yet-to-be-built crossing under Interstate 93.

During Monday night’s Windham Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Administrator David Sullivan said the town is working with state agencies to finalize a project proposal that would ultimately link the existing Rockingham Rail Trail to the currently uncompleted Greenway trail.

As part of a proposed deal with the state, the DOT would construct the $1 million, 12-foot wide box culvert under the highway, on the condition that the town blaze and develop the adjacent trail connections off N. Lowell Road.

“It would be a joint venture,” Sullivan said this week. “Basically, we’d need to cut the path through and improve what’s already in between that road and the highway.”

The topic will be further addressed during a board meeting at the end of August.

Sullivan said a public hearing would be a necessary part of the process, since some of the yet-to-be-built sections of trails would wind through residents’ backyards.

“Some of the people in those areas could take issue with having a trail behind their home,” he noted.

At the same time, the town of Windham is seeking federal grant monies that, if approved, would result in a more polished trail connection.

This week, the town submitted its letter of intent for a $650,000 Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant.

Intended to enhance public connections for alternative means of transportation, TAP projects use state and federal funds to build things like pedestrian and bicycle facilities and public trails.

If Windham is successful in attaining TAP funds, the town would be able to fully pave the 10-foot wide, 13,000-foot long Greenway, which would run westerly from I-93.

With selectmen voting unanimously in favor Monday night, the final application packet would be finalized and submitted by early fall, Sullivan said.

If approved, construction on the paved Greenway would begin in the fall of 2016.

Should the town fail to obtain any grant monies this time around, the plan would be to clear an unpaved trail.

“It wouldn’t have to be paved or graveled under our agreement, but it does have to be open,” said Sullivan.

Town officials estimated that blazing the trail itself would cost somewhere in the range of $17,000 to $25,000.

The state DOT requires he town have a cleared Greenway by 2018 as part of the box culvert agreement. Town officials said the culvert would be illuminated but wouldn’t have any cellular connections installed.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger noted that a similar culvert exists in Nashua’s Mine Falls Park, where walkers and cyclists travel under the Everett Turnpike.

“It’s fully paved and it has plenty of light,” Hohenberger said. “Which is a very nice touch.”

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