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Commission discusses Belpre project

The Washington County Commission met Thursday with representatives from the Belpre Rail Trail to discuss the project’s progress.

The group has been trying since 2017 to purchase property owned by CSX which would connect the rail trail from Collins Road to the Little Hocking River, approximately 1.65 miles.

County Engineer Roger Wright said the land was purchased by CSX in 1875 and portions have been owned by the railroad company ever since.

In October 2019, a contract was signed between the commission and Palmer Engineering for surveying of the corridor.

Wright said they needed to find out where CSX’s boundaries are.

“They surveyed the entire corridor and set monumentation where the CSX boundary lines are,” Wright said.

He said there was a cloud on the title, as there were a few encroachments and an issue with the bridge on Gantsville Road.

In a letter to Wright in 2019, Palmer Engineering estimated the property’s acquisition would be complete by March 2021.

Wright said COVID and complications shut the project down for a time.

The final plan and bid specifications for the Devola Sewer Project – Phase 2 were approved by the commissioners. This was the last step before the project went to bid.

“We’ve already got the EPA’s permit to install,” Wright said. The PTI was obtained March 18.

He said this portion of the project will construct the sanitary sewer mains and home connections, including the step system. The official estimate for this portion of the project is $13.5 million.

The project will be rebid if contractors come back with costs more than 10 percent more than $13.5 million.

With $2.5 million already spent on the engineering plans, specifications and estimates, the total of the project so far is $16 million. Additional costs will be incurred due to the electrical phase of the project.

Wright said the commissioners set aside $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the electrical portion, but the final cost is still unknown.

He said they will also have to pay for construction inspections.

Commissioners are still waiting for word about U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson’s congressionally directed spending. He has requested $7.5 million for the project.

So far, this phase of the project has received more than $14 million in grant funding.

There is $1 million from a U.S. Army Corps grant, $750,000 from an H2Ohio grant; $10 million from a House Bill 168 grant; $368,000 from an Appalachian Regional Council grant; and $2 million in funding from the county’s ARPA funds.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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