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June 12, 2013

Rail trail work resumes in Salem

Volunteers must raise $76K by June 24

SALEM — Work on the rail trail is back on track after a five-month hiatus, but organizers have reached a critical point in the project.

The Friends of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor are trying to come up with the approximately $76,000 in matching funds needed by June 24 to receive a federal transportation grant.

“We need community support to make it happen,” Friends co-chairman David Topham said.

The organization has already raised $94,000 for the bicycle and walking trail, he said.

Topham met with officials from the state Department of Transportation, Salem and Windham yesterday afternoon to request a change of scope for the project, which he said would reduce the grant money needed.

Meanwhile, a railroad preservation group has resumed removal of wooden ties along a 2.8-mile portion of the 5.1 miles of rail line in Salem.

The group, Iron Horse Preservation Society, began removing rails and ties in late October, but had to stop in December because the ground was frozen.

The work resumed in late May, Topham said.

Crews from Iron Horse, based in Nevada, travel around the country and pull up old tracks for free. They fund the work by selling the track and equipment to help restore historic railroads. The organization is doing about $400,000 worth of work, Topham said.

Iron Horse operations manager Ryan Hattrup said his crew is making progress and expects to finish the work this summer.

“There’s a lot of stuff to remove,” he said. “We’re getting everything in the ground.”

The area will be graded, then paved or covered with gravel.

But the project hit another stumbling block yesterday afternoon when Topham met with state and local officials.

Topham asked to use some of the grant for paving instead of putting in a side path along Route 28, reducing the amount needed from $910,000 to $675,000.

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