Funds committed for Rail Trail Bridge Project

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FARMINGTON — The Rail Trail Bridge, connecting recreational trails on both sides of the Sandy River, is a project that the town of Farmington has been eyeing for some time. 

Thanks to a collaborative effort from the town, the High Peaks Alliance, and multiple interested parties ranging from the state to snowmobile clubs to private donors, the project is heading to the federal government for a possible grant funding opportunity. 

Tuesday, Jan. 11, Brent West, the Executive Director for High Peaks Alliance, presented the Farmington select board with the project budget for building the bridge. This budget was created from the preliminary engineering, for which the board previously (LINK ARTICLE HERE PLEASE) approved a contribution of $5,000. 

The total budget for the project is $2,725,000. This includes the preliminary engineering, project management, a long-term maintenance fund, and the costs of final engineering, permitting, and bridge construction. 

The federal grant that West is aiming for will cover a full 80 percent of the project, with the remaining 20 percent to come from local, state, and private donors. 

While the federal grant is likely going to be competitive, West felt that they had a good shot at getting it. 

On the application, West is requesting $2 million in federal funds, with a remaining $725,000 to raise. With a $300,000 matching commitment from Susan and Fritz Onion, along with additional funds from the town, the state, and from private donors, West requested that the select board commit $200,000 to match the grant. 

A remaining $180,000 will need to be raised for long-term maintenance and project management, but this commitment secures the necessary funds that are required for the federal grant application process. 

The board unanimously approved the $200,000 commitment, with the expectation that the funds will come from the TIF account. American Rescue Plan Act funds may not be used towards the match for the federal funding.

If the federal grant is not approved for the project, West will begin the process of seeking out other grant funding. He has some possible options in mind should that become necessary. 

When completed, the Rail Trail Bridge is projected to be the longest single-span pedestrian bridge in the state of Maine. The framework will be seven lengths of steel trusses, welded together, suspended with cables. The bridge design met with the approval of the state snowmobile representative and will be able to be used by snowmobile traffic. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” board chair Matthew Smith said. 

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