LONDONDERRY — Grant funding gave a big boost to the town's trail system and voters here also gave a big vote of support.
Londonderry's trail system was one of nine statewide chosen for money from the Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP. A total of $5.7 million will be awarded to Granite State communities for projects including sidewalks, multi-use paths and rail trails.
Londonderry will receive $800,000 to build a one-mile, multi-use path along the sides of Harvey, Webster and Grenier Field roads. It's part of Londonderry Trailways' Phase 6 portion of the community trail system.
"This grant is greatly needed because estimates for rail trail construction near the airport exceed a million dollars," said Trailways Rail Trail Project Director Bob Rimol.
This project, along with the Phase 5 Little Cohas portion of the rail trail planned for construction in 2019, will expand the Londonderry trail system to 5.5 paved miles.
Then on election day, March 12, Londonderry residents also gave a whopping 77 percent of voter support to the trail system, approving a warrant article that will help the next phases move forward.
Rimol stated that both phases won't be completed concurrently. Phase 5, the one-mile section beginning in North Londonderry and passing through Little Cohas Marsh will be done first.
"Right now we are doing a final check on the engineering plans for Phase 5," Rimol said. "The town has the first draft of the bid specs and if everything goes as planned, we expect to bid Phase 5 in late spring and award the contract in July. Then construct over the summer or fall."
The next phase has a different path to follow, Rimol noted.
"Phase 6 is another story," he said. "Since it's a TAP grant, we have to follow the rules and processes. I am expecting later this year, we will begin the selection process of choosing an engineering firm for the project and begin the design process later this year, or early next year."
Town Manager Kevin Smith said the trail system in town is popular and having the support of the grant funding will help increase usage and popularity.
"The rail trail has been a widely popular amenity in Londonderry and has received great support from the community over the last six years since its inception," Smith said following the grant announcement."
Trailways supporters are also thanking the town's voters for their support.
"Passing the rail trail warrant article with 77 percent of the vote is confirmation that the community values this recreational resource and wants the trail completed, said Trailways' Pollyann Winslow. "Trailways appreciates the Town Council and Budget Committee's unanimous support in bringing this article to the ballot and thanks the voters for giving it the green light."
With the grant funding and voter approval for other monies to be used, the next two phases of the system — west through the Little Cohas Marsh, and then past the airport to the Manchester line — will now be officially in the pipeline for completion, with no additional effect on the tax rate, officials said.