By Ramona du Houx

November 9, 2010

Thirty pedestrian trail projects in southern Maine are going to benefit from $20.3 million in federal and state grant money. One of the objectives that came from Governor John Baldacci’s council to improve Maine’s Quality of Life, three years ago, was to connect trails for hiking and biking all around the state. In essence they decided to create a ‘Biking Interstate.’ The Department of Transportation got on board along with communities across the state. Various grants have been won, and the trail system is taking shape. Officials admit it will take time to connect the entire state but with every grant the state moves in that direction.

This $20 million will be distributed over the next five years by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System will be used for 30 projects from Biddeford to Freeport. The money won’t cover the entire cost of the projects, but it will let them move forward.

Among the projects that will benefit are a 2-mile pathway in Cape Elizabeth, improvements to Scarborough’s Dunstan Corner and a pedestrian connection from the new Bayside Trail to the Back Cove Trail in Portland.

Representatives from the system’s 15 member communities and seven public transportation systems will spend months sifting through funding requests.

In Cape Elizabeth, the construction of a 2-mile pathway along busy Shore Road is expected to cost just under $1 million. The 5-foot-wide path for runners, walkers and cyclists would connect Fort Williams Park with the town center. A citizens group called Safe Access for Everyone hopes to raise most of the money through state grants. The local share of the project would be $200,000.