It hasn’t been that long since Southington’s linear trail finally connected to Cheshire at the south end, and the Plainville-Southington gap is shrinking. It might not be long before rail-trail enthusiasts are able to travel the whole stretch from New Haven to Northampton, Mass.
Progression toward completion of the Linear Trail in Southington is going forward smoothly, reported Keith Hayden P.E., Director of Public Works.
About a month ago, the newest section of the Southington trail was officially opened, stretching from Curtiss Street and ending at Lazy Lane. What’s left to be completed is the portion from Lazy Lane to the Plainville town line, which Hayden said is “currently in design.”
“The preliminary design will be completed in late November,” said Hayden. “At that time there will be a public informational meeting where the public will be invited to ask questions and give their input on the design.”
The November meeting will be posted on the Town’s website when a date is determined. After the meeting, the project will move into the final design phase. “The schedule for the final design and construction have not been determined yet,” added Hayden.
The Linear Trail is part of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (FCHT), which will stretch 84 miles from New Haven to Northampton, Mass. when completed. The gap between the town of Plainville and Southington is the last remaining portion that is not complete or in construction phase.
Last week, the Town of Plainville held a public workshop and informational meeting that included an open house where partners of the Gap Closure Trail Study were available to answer any questions and receive feedback and suggestions from residents. The workshop was followed by a presentation led by the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG).
The Gap Closure Study is lead by CRCOG in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the Town of Plainville, the Town of Southington, the City of New Britain, and the Plainville Greenway Alliance. The study has been evaluating feasibility and potential alignments and infrastructure needs to the FCHT.
Bruce Donald, Tri-State Greenway Coordinator of East Coast Greenway Alliance, one of the stakeholders in the study, explained that incentive is there for the trail to come together at this time.
“The funding has changed,” Donald said. “Prior, it was 80 percent federal funding and 20 percent local [funded by individual towns], but now the Connecticut Department of Transportation has picked up that 20 percent.”
Donald added that, as the rest of the FCHT comes together in other towns across the state, the desire for it in Plainville and Southington rises. “Residents are traveling to nearby towns to use their portions of the trail.”
Based on studies done on other trails, a completed trail could increase the value of the town. “It becomes a talking point, and a selling point, of the town. It brings in residents and business,” said Donald. “Once the residents have access to this wonderful amenity, it often becomes a part of their lifestyle.”
A large section of the FCHT, including the portion that runs through Southington, is included in the much larger East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile biking and walking route that will stretch from Calais, Maine to Key West, Fla.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.