Work on a biking and jogging path spanning almost the entire length of Riverhead Town, from Calverton to Northville, got under way last week, town officials announced.
The town was awarded $3.2 million in federal stimulus grants in July 2009 for the project, which when completed will create pedestrian-designated areas linking existing state and county paths throughout the town in multiple places. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act project uses federal highway administration funds for design and construction work for what’s called an alternative transportation path.
It had been in the design phase for about three years before going under environmental review in 2012.
“Bringing federal resources to the table to help solve local problems is a top priority for me, so I am proud to have secured federal funding for this state-of-the-art alternative transportation network in Riverhead Town,” Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said in a statement last week. “This visionary project will expand opportunities for exercise and convenient, energy-efficient transportation for residents and visitors alike.”
Projects such as this, in addition to being part of the recovery packages designed to help stimulate the economy after the economic collapse, come as part of the U.S. government’s efforts to curb vehicle emissions and promote health, town officials said.
The money is required to be used only for pedestrian improvements, no other road work.
The path stretches from the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL) in the southwest corner of the town to Northville in the northeast, connecting schools, libraries, parks, beaches, shops, wineries and restaurants along the way. According to a town press release, work over the next few weeks will include “survey work, installation of construction signs and silt fences, asphalt sawcutting, as well as other work…” Paving will follow, the release reads. The project is expected to be completed this fall.
George Bartunek, a former Riverhead councilman and member of the town alternative transportation committee, which helped by advising town officials on the project, said the path will provide more safety for those who run or bike on roadways alongside cars and trucks.
“It will offer residents the opportunity to use state and local roads more safely for purposes of exercise, and as a healthier alternative to use of automobiles for local trips,” Mr. Bartunek said, adding it will also complement the town’s planned path within the EPCAL site, once that’s completed. He noted that the nine-mile EPCAL path is inside the industrial park property and away from roadways, and “there is very little exposure to automobile traffic, which should attract bicycling by whole families.”
As for the federally funded townwide path, state Department of Transportation commissioner Joan McDonald said she believes the path “will spur local economic activity by making it easier for people to get around town and travel between restaurants, stores, schools and attractions.”
The path “marks an important milestone in Riverhead’s remarkable renaissance,” Mr. Bishop’s statement said.
According to Recovery.gov, a U.S. government website that provides data on recovery funding, the money went to the town — through the state DOT — for the path “to connect the areas of activity centers throughout the town.”
The federal website on Wednesday listed .43 jobs as being created through the spending project, though it also reported work hadn’t yet started yet. Oliver Longwell, a spokesman for Mr. Bishop, confirmed Wednesday that the site had not been updated.
The state estimates about 24 jobs are created, directly and indirectly, per $1 million of construction costs, according to www.dot.ny.gov, with this project costing $2.1 million in construction costs, or about 50 jobs.
Last Friday, a crew from Bethpage’s New York Paving, which, according to town officials, was awarded a $2.1 million construction contract, was found preparing roadways along Pier Avenue in Northville by putting out hay bales with plastic barriers to protect wetlands.
They were also covering storm drains with filters to protect ground water. Soon they will be tearing up asphalt to widen some roads, the workers said.
A state DOT spokeswoman said “the balance of the project cost [after the $2.1 million contract] is for design and construction inspection.”
Dunn Engineering Associates, P.C., of Westhampton Beach provided design services.
Although an itemized breakdown of how the money was spent was not immediately available from state or local officials, the state website reports that to date, about $250,000 has been paid to Dunn. New York Paving has to date been paid about $376,000.
with Barbaraellen Koch