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Salem group continues push to raise money for bicycle path

SALEM — Selectmen have granted an extension to the Friends of the Salem Bike-Pedestrian Corridor to raise matching funds for the planned bike and pedestrian path that would stretch from the Windham line to the intersection of Old Rockingham Road and Route 28.

The nearly $1.1 million project would be paid for through a federal grant in conjunction with local matching funds raised by the Friends of the Salem Bike-Pedestrian corridor. Salem will administer the project with oversight from the state’s transportation department.

The local match portion of the project is about $229,000, said Town Manager Keith Hickey. On Monday night, selectmen approved extending the deadline until July 28 to raise the money.

Selectman Stephen Campbell said the extension does not mean the bike path group is unable to raise the matching funds.

“The reason this is being delayed is not that they are having trouble collecting the money,” said Campbell. He said the bike path group is trying to get matching state tax credits for the donations and will not get that approval until early July.

“We don’t want to give the impression that we are giving an extra three months because they didn’t reach their total,” Campbell said. “They believe they have an excellent chance to be approved for these tax credits, which then enables their donors to offset part of their contributions on their taxes.”

Campbell and Hickey said the extension will not delay the project’s timeline.

“I think it is the right thing to do to help this group out,” said Campbell.

Hickey said he has spoken to bike path group members and they plan to be before selectmen within the next month with an $85,000 donation.

“This is part of the local match so we can start the second phase of the engineering,” said Hickey.

Earlier this winter, Greg Backus of VHB Engineering presented selectmen with several alternatives for the bike path. The board unanimously backed a plan that will run along the Route 28 corridor rail bed from the Windham line and cross the intersection at Range Road.

The project will include an improved pedestrian crossing at Range Road.

From there, the path will continue on the side of the rail bed away from Route 28 for a portion of the way to the Old Rockingham Road intersection.

Backus recommended that alternative because a portion of the rail bed is unusable because of wetlands. Once past the wetlands, the path could once again be built along the rail bed.

Depending upon available funds, the path could continue to the Main Street intersection.

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