Trail to the Train project still sits at station
WASSAIC — The Trail to the Train project remains at a standstill as the Amenia Town Board and the Trail to the Train Committee continue to disagree over who should be contracted to build the project.The Trail to the Train project will build a half-mile extension of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail to connect the Wassaic Metro-North train station to the hamlet of Wassaic. This will give pedestrians a safer option than walking along Route 22.According to Trail to the Train Committee member Tonia Shoumatoff, the committee and the town board have reviewed proposals from several companies and have narrowed down the list to two potential entities: WSP Sells and Mark Morrison & Associates. The board wants to contract WSP Sells while the committee wants to contract Mark Morrison & Associates.Shoumatoff said that the committee sent emails to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Amenia Town Board and the landowner detailing why the committee prefers Mark Morrison & Associates over WSP Sells.The cheapest trail proposed by WSP Sells — which still has an estimated price tag that is over the current project budget of $600,000 — would go through the wetlands that lie to the east of the Metro North train station.“Placing the trail in the wetland has practical problems that haven’t been addressed,” said the email. “The trail would be subject to flooding, it would displace floodwater downstream, there may be wildlife impacts that have to be studied, and no one has determined the extent of excavations really necessary. “In addition, getting down to the level of the wetland from the Metro North crossing will involve a steep ramp that would have to meet ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] specs. The SEQR [State Environmental Quality Review] process might get expensive and the town would have to pay the costs of all the legal work and environmental impact studies. [WSP Sells] doesn’t even mention this in their estimates.”The email also states that WSP Sells “presented no evidence that they are aware of a traffic safety problem at the crossing by the Metro North station or how they would handle it.”In another email sent by Shoumatoff to the Amenia Town Board and other important decision-makers involved with the project, it was stated, “The Trail to the Train Committee has reviewed the proposed contract with WSP Sells. We do not recommend that the town of Amenia sign this contract. It makes no sense to sign a contract that is twice as expensive as the firm [Mark Morrison & Associates] that was voted unanimously as first best by the committee [and] second by the town board.”That email also notes that the landowner who will need to give an easement for the project shares the concerns of the committee regarding the “environmental, flooding and sociological concerns.”A file attached to that email included a letter from Dave Reagon, a member of the Trail to the Train Committee, that listed 18 specific “unanswered questions” that should be addressed before a contract is signed. Many of these questions deal with environmental impacts, viability issues and concerns over regulations and funding. He ends the list of questions with: “For all of the above reasons and probably many more, the Trail to the Train Committee urges the Town Board not to sign a contract with [WSP] Sells and to seek another estimate from the list of candidates. The committee must be involved as a full partner.”Shoumatoff said in an interview that the Trail to the Train Committee prefers Mark Morrison & Associates for two main reasons. First, his proposal gives an estimate that is lower than that of WSP Sells and stays within budget. Second, since Morrison is a local resident, he has been involved with the project since its inception 10 years ago, he has attended all meetings about the project, which has made him very knowledgeable about all aspects of the plan, and he is so dedicated to the area and the project that he has worked pro bono thus far, even when he created preliminary drawings.Another Trail to the Train Committee member, Martin Grossman, also wrote a letter regarding the project’s progress. After detailing items in the contract that he has questions about, he wrote, “The [Trail to the Train] Committee carefully evaluated each consultant during the selection process. The committee chose a consultant that was confident that a trail could be constructed for less that $600,000 [the project’s budget]. This consultant is familiar with site conditions, has the experience in similar rail trail construction and has the confidence of the owner of the land which is needed for construction. [WSP] Sells has not shown any evidence that this project can be completed for less than $600,000.”Amenia Town Supervisor Wayne Euvrard was unavailable for comment.The Trail to the Train project in on the agenda for the Amenia Town Board meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 14. The meeting will be held in the Amenia Town Hall on Route 22 at 7 p.m.