Plainville studies development plan for closing rail-trail gap

Rails to TrailsBy LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

The first informational meeting for the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail Gap Closure Study recently kicked off with a good turnout of people from Plainville and surrounding communities.

Conducted by the Capital Region Council of Governments, the study aims to close the gap in the trail through Southington and Plainville while identifying a connection to the CTfastrak station in New Britain. CRCOG has partnered with consultant VHB, along with firms Mobycon and Bluezones for the project. Other project stakeholders include the Connecticut Department of Transport-ation (DOT), the town of Plainville, the town of Southington, the city of New Britain, and the Plainville Greenway Alliance.

“Other people will be involved with our team as we move forward David Head, senior transportation engineer for VHB, during the July 26 meeting held at Plainville Public Library.

Known as one of the most historic greenways in New England, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is an 84-mile multi-use trail that stretches from New Haven to Northampton, Mass. Although most of the trail is complete or in the process of being designed, the only gap in the trail is through the town of Plainville and into Southington. “This Plainville piece is a critical piece in completing that gap,” said Head.

The study will determine a corridor for closing the gap in Plainville and Southington, said Head. The Plainville section has not been completed because of an active rail line that exists within the trail corridor.

“It has been studied before, but didn’t progress,” said Head. “It was due basically to the difficulty… of an active rail line [in Plainville] and they never got down to choosing an option.”

The study team also is working to find possible routes that would connect the trail with Plainville, New Britain, Southington and the CTfastrak station in New Britain through a world-class multi-use trail network. The recent opening of CTfastrak includes a new multi-use trail for central Connecticut. Connecting the trail to CTfastrak and its adjacent multi-use trail would further enhance the bicycle and pedestrian amenities in the region, and since all CTfastrak buses are equipped with bicycle racks, this connection can extend the distance that cyclists travel to reach their destination, according to the study team.

A major part of the project is public outreach to better understand what residents envision a trail to look like in their communities. Before the first public meeting, the study team held a series of focus groups throughout the day in Plainville.

The study team will engage the public through workshops and other meetings over the course of 18 months. The study is expected to be completed next summer.

Head encouraged residents to share their feedback on the study.

“We’ll be listening… as to what you feel this trail should look like or this connection should look like both in Plainville and New Britain,” Head told the public. “That’s why we’re here.”

For more info, visit www.gapclosurestudy.com.

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