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Trails to receive federal funds
Three projects earmarked funds in spending bill
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Newton County will receive nearly $1 million in federal money for 2009 for three pedestrian trail projects.

Doug Moore, communications director for Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), District 8, said the county is receiving the money in the form of earmarks included in the $410 billion government appropriation bill, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, which was signed by President Obama on Wednesday. The appropriations bill is what funds the government and is separate from the economic stimulus package passed in February.

“I am pleased to announce funding for these projects,” Marshall said in a press release. “I worked hard to ensure these projects survived the appropriations process, and I’m very happy with the results.”

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation is providing the money for Newton County’s projects, including:

• $142,500 for the construction of a pedestrian tunnel underneath the Covington Bypass, as part of a pedestrian trail heading southeast from the Newton County Public Library on Floyd Street to Eastside High School and on to the Alcovy River

• $232,750 for a 200 foot pedestrian bridge over the Yellow River as part of a pedestrian trail connecting Turner Lake Park to the Newton County Educational Complex on Brown Bridge Road and the renovated depot in the historic mill village of Porterdale

• $622,250 for the purchase of approximately 40 miles of railroad right of ways from railroad companies. The rails would then be removed and the existing rail path would be converted into a pedestrian trail. One section of railroad being considered currently runs from Porterdale to Covington to Shady Dale.

Cheryl Delk, Newton County’s Special Projects Coordinator, said these projects are an important of the county’s master plan for an improved pedestrian trail system. In most cases these trails would be multi-use trails, designed for walking and biking, but not for motorized vehicles.

These projects have been in the works for about five years and have received funding from various sources, including previous earmarks from appropriations bills. This latest federal money will only pay for about 20 percent of the remaining cost of each of the three projects, but County Chairman Kathy Morgan said the county is “thrilled” to receive this money.

“These projects will expand our greenspace and our trails project,” Morgan said. “(They will provide) the opportunity for our citizens to have a (defined) area to ride their bikes and exercise.”

The county is hoping to receive more money for these projects from the federal stimulus package. All of the projects are expected to begin this summer and will be partially completed in phases during the next year and beyond, depending on the construction bid process and future funding, Delk said.

Moore said Newton County received more than 25 percent of the total money given to Georgia’s 8th District, which comprises 21 counties. Overall, Marshall obtained 18 projects for his district totaling $3.8 million.