Public Invited to Discuss Bike Path Routes In Plainville

The latest proposals to extend a multi-state rails-to-trails path through town will be discussed Wednesday at a public meeting at the high school.

The meeting will discuss closing the so-called “Plainville Gap,” the largest break in Connecticut’s portion of the 84-mile Farmington Canal Heritage Trail that will link New Haven with Northampton Mass., when it’s done.

“We will present our revised preliminary preferred alignment to people for feedback,” said Tim Malone of the Gap Study Group. “Our goal is to evaluate what people say as we work to come up with a final recommendation.”

The meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Plainville High School cafeteria.

Spanning the 4-mile break in Plainville is a challenge because active east-west freight rail lines preclude running the path on top of old rail tracks — the method used in many other communities, including Southington to the south and Farmington to the north.

Malone said the newest proposal is for a 5.3-mile path that snakes the trail through town land, parks and streets without going through Tommasso Nature Park. An earlier proposal drew criticism for plotting a path through that park.

About 98 percent of the revised path is off-road. The gap is the only segment in either state that is not completed, under construction or in design.

Maps of the revised preliminary routes, with alternate segments for some stretches, are online at gapclosurestudy.com. The site also includes summaries of the 330 responses people had in earlier public surveys about the path and proposed routes.

Wednesday’s meeting also will include a discussion about a spur trail intended to link the Canal Trail with the CTFastrak busway station in New Britain. Advocates say this link makes sense as the new buses have bicycle racks.

Malone, a planner with the Capitol Region Council of Governments, has been involved in this discussion for several years. Other groups in the study include the state Department of Transportation, Plainville, Southington, New Britain and the Plainville Greenway Alliance.

The path had been stalled for years, but in the past year, Southington has pushed its segment closer to Plainville and has the last segment under design to bring the trail to Town Line Road in Plainville.

Farmington is completing a 2-mile extension that will extend its trail into Plainville on Northwest Drive. There will be a parking lot and shelter on that street.

Trail advocates estimate that as many as 200,000 bicyclists and walkers will use some or all the trail once it is complete. Advocates say the trail will be an economic boon to communities through which it passes.

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