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Akron ready for its rail trail bids
By Nov. 1 of this year, you should be able to strap your rollerblades on in downtown Ephrata, next to the former C.P. Wenger grain silos, and skate your way to the western limits of Akron Borough.
On Monday night, Akron Borough Council approved a measure to seek bids for two portions of the Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail (WERT).
Bids will be advertised for the Akron East portion of the trail, which will extend from a point 300 feet east of Main Street in Akron and extend to Ephrata Borough’s linear park trail. The park begins on Main Street in Ephrata and will join Akron East at Ephrata’s Pointview Avenue. The Akron West portion of the trail will also begin 300 feet east of Main Street, go through a tunnel under Main Street and end at the borough boundary, which is roughly on a line with Vista Drive where it meets Bomberger Road.
The deadline for bids for both Akron East and Akron West is 3 p.m., Friday, April 25. They will be opened at Akron Borough Hall. Before any contracts can be awarded, they have to be approved by borough councils in Akron and Ephrata, and by EphrataTownship’s board of supervisors.
If all goes according to plan, the work will be done by Nov. 1, according to Michael Huxta, a landscape architect and project manager with the ELA Group, Inc., in Lititz. That firm is coordinating the rail trail planning.
One of the most controversial parts of the rail trail construction has been the point where the trail crosses Main Street in Akron. Gently-sloped ramps leading from the trail to Main Street then back down again, were seen as the most economical way to get from one side of the street to the other. However, there was abundant support for a tunnel under Main Street, and that approach won out in a close vote at the February council meeting.
The tunnel will be 9.5 feet high, 10 feet wide and 80 feet long. It will be lit with tamper-resistant recessed lighting fixtures. There will a split rail fence on both sides of Main Street to encourage pedestrians to stay on the sidewalks, and, for those who wander off the sidewalks, there will be four-foot-high chain link safety fences atop both ends of the tunnel.
Although two bids are being sought for the project – Akron East and Akron West – Borough Manager Dan Guers said they are hoping one contractor can be signed to do both portions. The work will include excavation, paving, lighting and some lesser expenses. The lights on portions of the trail will be leased from PPL, and will be the same kind that were installed in the Ephrata linear park.
Eventually, by 2017 if not sooner, according to Huxta, the WERT trail will cover the eight-mile distance from downtown Ephrata to Oak Street in Lititz.
Bryan Boyer, a member of the borough’s planning commission, was in the audience Monday night, and asked council if they had given any thought to sidewalks on Front Street – most of which does not currently have them. He voiced concerns about the safety of hikers who might access the trail via Front Street. Council President Thomas Murray thanked him for the question, and said he would bring the matter up with the streets committee.
In other business, council:
– Approved a resolution granting conditional-use permission to Reid Myers for a duplex at 111 Front Street.
– Learned that a new tenant, Bears Lock Shop, has leased the lower level of Borough Hall for $1,000 a month. The same tenant will also operate a second business, Engravings of Leola, from that location.
– Approved the attendance of three borough employees at PennState’s annual rural water conference. The three are public works employees Thomas Murray, Jr., and Kyle Sauder, and Borough Manager Dan Guers.
– Learned from Guers that the borough will again participate in the Northern Lancaster County Joint Roads Bidding Project, a cooperative group that has increased from nine municipalities to 13 in the past three years.
– Also learned from Guers that the borough had sold a 2001 Ford F550 truck for $34,100, a figure that Guers said was significantly more than he had expected.
Dick Wanner is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review, and can be reached at email@example.com, or by phone at 419-4703.