New Suffolk bike-pedestrian path gains traction

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs a pact moving forward the Rails to Trails project, an agreement between the county and the Long Island Power Authority that would turn underused land into a bicycle and pedestrian path. Videojournalist: Ed Betz (Aug. 14, 2013)

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Suffolk County is one step closer to rolling out a new bike and pedestrian path after County Executive Steve Bellone signed a pact Wednesday moving the project forward.

At an event along the proposed route in Shoreham, Bellone was joined by legislators and advocates, as he signed an agreement between the county and the Long Island Power Authority.

"This is a project that is moving forward and is vital to our future in Suffolk County," Bellone said.

The Rails to Trails path will be a 10-13 mile bike and pedestrian route from Port Jefferson to Wading River, along a former Long Island Rail Road track that is now a LIPA right of way. The path runs parallel to Route 25A.

For more than 10 years advocates had proposed the plan, with federal dollars earmarked for the project, but disputes over contract language led to an impasse.

Suffolk County Legis. Sarah Anker helped the parties reunite, and on July 30, LIPA and the county agreed on a 25-year, no-fee lease.

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A Federal Highway Administration's Scenic Byways grant secured with help from U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) provided $6.5 million dollars for the project.

Suffolk officials now plan to have Melville-based RBA Engineering draw up designs, which will be presented for community input.

The first phase of the project will begin at the site of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe -- which is raising funds to open as a museum and attraction along the path -- and run 3 miles east to Wading River-Manorville Road.

Shoreham resident and advocate Bryan Lilly, 50, says he hopes to be able to bike on a portion of the path in as little as two years as. "The biggest hurdle is over," said Lilly.

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