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Final push for trail bridges funds

The Eastern Trail Alliance needs to raise $1 million by the end of the year to fund a new bridge crossing over the Nonesuch River in Scarborough. ​

Kate Irish Collins, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - May 19, 2016

The final push is on to raise the remaining $1 million needed by the end of the year to build two new bridges on the Eastern Trail that would close a 1.6-mile gap between Scarborough and South Portland.

Construction of the bridges, one over the Nonesuch River and one over the Pan Am railroad tracks near Pleasant Hill Road, has been a goal of the Eastern Trail Alliance, which maintains and operates the trail, for more than a decade, according to Carole Brush.

The total cost of the bridge projects is $3.8 million, Brush said. Of that amount, $2.8 million has been raised through various funding avenues, including from the communities of Scarborough and South Portland, as well as the state and federal governments.

So far, Scarborough and South Portland have pledged a combined $70,000 toward the bridges project, with the trail alliance seeking another $216,000 from the town of Scarborough. The money is included in the town’s proposed 2016-17  budget, which the Town Council is scheduled to vote on Wednesday, after the Current’s print deadline.The 65-mile Eastern Trail in Maine extends from Kittery to Bug Light in South Portland and is part of the East Coast Greenway, which spans 2,900 miles from Florida to Maine.

Construction of the two bridges between Scarborough and South Portland would actually create a new, 16-mile section of off-road travel for the Eastern Trail, Brush said. The Maine Department of Transportation said closing the trail gap between the two communities is one of its highest-priority recreation projects.

The Eastern Trail was created 16 years ago, and since then millions of people have used it to bike, run and walk through many of southern Maine’s most scenic woods, tidal marshes and traditional New England communities, according to the Eastern Trail website.

The urgency about raising the remaining funding needed to build the two bridges is that if the $1 million is not raised by the end of the year, the money pledged by the Department of Transportation may be diverted to other projects around the state.

With that possibility in mind, Tom Hall, Scarborough’s town manager, said, “Timing is critical because we’ve raised the majority of the funds, but time is (now) running out.”

The project is in the final stages of design and is on schedule to start construction in early 2017, according to Brush.

“It’s critical that the project start (as planned because) we don’t want to risk the funding being diverted to other projects,” she said.

Hall agreed.

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