The Union Leader is reporting that the Federal Highway Administration is rescinding and cancelling all trail funding for 2012.

Budget times are tough, but these are the sort of projects that make cities more enjoyable and strengthen communities, in addition to providing residents options for commuting, exercise and recreation. This news comes on top of delays in restoring commuter rail between Manchester, Concord, Nashua and Boston, and reduced funding for the MTA. It is shortsighted and sad to see legislators at the state and federal level cutting funding for transit, trails and alternative transportation while continuing to fund highway expansion and heavily subsidizing automobile use.

Fortunately, construction of the bridge connecting the Piscataquog Trail on the West Side with the Goffstown Trail was secured through earlier funds and will go forward. Trails and other bike infrastructure, such as bike lanes–along with commuter rail and improved public transit–are vital to continued growth and investment in cities like Manchester, and they should be funded and cherished.

Funding for trails runs dry

Federal grants: Manchester was eyeing projects that may not happen now. 

By MARK HAYWARD

Any bicycle and pedestrian trails that local communities have on the drawing board for next year likely won’t go very far.

New Hampshire officials learned last week that the federal government has zeroed out $677,000 in 2012 grant money that was anticipated for pedestrian trails, the state Division of Parks and Recreation said Monday.

The Recreational Trails Program funding is the only source available for non-motorized trails in New Hampshire. It is a major component of the motorized trail system also.

“We are completely stunned at the sudden email from (the Federal Highway Administration) and this loss of funding,” said Bureau of Trails Chief Chris Gamache.

State officials said the agency made technical corrections to its funding formula, recalculating grants for the years 2009 to 2012.

The result: the Federal Highway Administration was taking back $678,000 and had rescinded all 2012 funds, which amount to $677,000.

“Sen. Shaheen’s staff have been aware of the situation and are in touch with the Federal Highway Administration to see what options are available,” Shaheen spokeman Faryl Ury said Monday night. “We understand accounts are being adjusted for this program for every state nationwide.”

Fifty-five organizations received grants this year, including the state’s largest city.

Manchester won grants for the last several years. The city uses them to build paved, 10-foot wide trails, including trails on the West Side and in south Manchester.

Next year, it was planning to seek $350,000 in federal grants to build a trail to run east from Tarrytown Road and hook up to the Rockingham Trail at Lake Massabesic, said Peter Capano, chief of parks for the city.

If the grant money is lost, the project won’t go forward, said Capano, who added that the project wasn’t a given anyway.

This year, the city won a grant of $466,000 to extend the South Manchester trail, which runs parallel to South Willow Street, from Gold Street to Highland-Goffes Falls School, he said.

This summer, construction is expected to start on a bridge that spans the Piscataquog River and links the Piscataquog River Trail to the Goffstown Rail Trail.

Earlier grants funded the bridge, Capano said. The grants pay for only 80 percent of a project. City money or private funds make up the remainder.

Capano said Manchester Moves, a local trail group, has pledged $75,000 toward the local match.

Chances are remote the city could build the trails without federal help, Capano said.

Most trails make use of former rail beds, and Capano acknowledged a mountain bike could ply the trails now.

But paved trails draw pedestrians and a wide range of nonmotorized vehicles, including baby strollers and street bikes, he said.

He said the city hopes to eventually have all trails meet in the downtown area, which would facilitate cross-city bicycling.

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