By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(March 16, 2023) After years of discussion, Berlin is gearing up to move on the “Rails and Trails” project that will place a shared-use bike and pedestrian path along the railroad in town.
Berlin Planning Director Dave Engelhart briefed the mayor and Town Council on construction funding and plans for the estimated $1.26 million project. The town received grant funding from the MDOT Bikeway Program in FY17.
At that time, the engineering firm Davis, Bowen and Friedel completed a design that puts a 14-foot path with landscaped buffers along the east side of the Maryland-Delaware railroad’s right-of-way through the town. The design is divided into two phases — from Heron Park on Old Ocean City Boulevard to Broad Street and from Broad Street to the town boundary at Evans Road.
Money already committed to the project from the last two fiscal cycles includes $229,684 combined from the American Rescue Plan Act and matching funds from Worcester County.
Altogether, funding plus matches from the town will leave the town with a balance of $86,135 to come up with for the project.
“This was put on tonight as a discussion item so you’re aware in your budget talks that this is coming,” Engelhart said. “We intend to move on this early.”
He added that he’d like to see a draft for total funding completed by May 1 “so hopefully we can hit ‘send.’”
Town administrator Mary Bohlen said what they’re looking for is simply to make sure that the money will be there when the time comes.
“We just want to make sure that we’re doing the work and the money is going to be there when we need it,” Bohlen said.
In February, when towns were making their requests to the Worcester County Commissioners for budget funding, Mayor Zack Tyndall asked for $116,013 specifically for “Rails and Trails.”
“In (FY22), the Worcester County Commissioners granted the Town of Berlin $39,875 for a Phase I grant application for the Rails and Trails program,” a letter to the commissioners stated. “Due to the timing of the grant application, we did not receive notification that our grant was unsuccessful until after we received funding from the Worcester County Commissioners in (FY23) for a Phase II grant application.”
The town’s consultants provided the town with an estimate of $42,000 to complete the design services up to 90 percent as mandated by the MDOT Bikeway Program.