Large Long Island Rails to Trails Project Officially Scheduled for Completion

Large Long Island Rails to Trails Project Officially Scheduled for CompletionsmmCongressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hosted a press conference at Sylvan Avenue Park in Miller Place, where he was joined by Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro, local civic, community and bicycle groups, and other members of the community.
At the press conference, Congressman Zeldin announced that a large, $9.51 million Rails to Trail Project from Port Jefferson to Wading River that has long been stalled is now back on track and scheduled for completion. The Port Jefferson to Wading River Rails to Trail Project is 80% federally funded with a 20% local match from Suffolk County. This new 10 mile trail will include six hamlets of Brookhaven Town, including Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, and Shoreham, and one hamlet in the Town of Riverhead, Wading River. This land, which was formally Long Island Railroad tracks, has been discussed as being converted to a trail since as early as 2001. Congressman Zeldin engaged officials from different levels of government to identify how to once again make this project a reality and get it completed.
The Rails to Trails program is an important initiative that began in the 1980s to help protect and preserve our land, converting abandoned rail tracks to bike and hike trails, which in turn helps grow our economy and improve our quality of life and environment. In 1983, through the National Trails Systems Act, Congress authorized the preservation of decommissioned railroad tracks for the creation of recreational trails for bicycling and hiking, allowing railroads to donate or sell unprofitable rail lines for the purpose of preservation to local governments or nonprofits for the creation of a trail. This landmark law came in response to public concern over the large amount of abandoned railroad tracks being left behind by the struggling railroad industry following deregulation through the 1980 Staggers Rail Act and the subsequent discontinuation of unprofitable routes. In the early 1980s, between 4,000 to 8,000 miles of unprofitable rail lines were abandoned each year. The Rails to Trails program has made great progress in protecting and preserving our land. Back in 1986, after this law was enacted, there were only 250 miles of rail to trail conversions. Now, as a result of the National Trails Systems Act, there have been more than 21,000 miles of rail to trails conversions.
Congressman Lee Zeldin said, “Long Island’s trails are an important part of our local community and economy – connecting our residents and visitors to our beaches, parks, local farms, festivals, wineries, restaurants, and other destinations, while providing an option of healthy recreational activity and transportation as well. In addition to improving quality of life and livability, trails help protect our environment through conservation and by reducing traffic and pollution on our roads. In Congress, I have been working as part of a bipartisan coalition with various levels of government to protect our parks and expand our growing network of trails here on Long Island through the Rails to Trails program and other efforts. Working closely with my colleagues in government, we were able to get on track a federally funded Rails to Trails project right here in Brookhaven, including Wading River as well in the Town of Riverhead, which had once been stalled but is now scheduled for completion. The Rails to Trails program is an important initiative that helps protect and preserve our natural resources and aid our growing network of trails on Long Island, which I have been working to expand over the past 18 months. In December 2015, Congress passed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act (H.R. 2029), which successfully saved the Land and Water Conservation Fund after the previous Congress had allowed this program to lapse. This important legislation protected critical funding that is used to preserve parks, beaches, trails, and other outdoor recreation sites through this Fund. Through grants targeted at the local level, this program has funded over 75 parks in Suffolk County alone. Additionally, within the 2015 Surface Transportation Bill, I acted on a bipartisan basis to help secure $835 million in annual funding, which will increase to $850 million by 2020, for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), key funding to improve walkability and bicycle access on Long Island. In 2014 alone, the First Congressional District received $4.8 million in federal matching funds through this program, which is used to construct new recreational trails and bike lanes, and to maintain and improve the ones already on Long Island. This funding also supports the Safe Routes to School Program, which helps school districts repair cracked sidewalks, unsafe intersections, and bike lanes that local students rely upon. I will continue my efforts to ensure that the Port Jeff to Wading River trail is completed.”
“Since being elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2011, I have made it one of my top priorities to advance the Rails to Trails project,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker. “Although we have had to overcome several major obstacles throughout the years, I am happy to see the project back on track and moving full-steam ahead. As we move into the design phase, I look forward to working closely with elected officials and the local community to design and provide a fun and safe recreational outlet for the residents of Suffolk County.”

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