By Brian Lee TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
SOUTHBRIDGE — There's traction on the long-talked-about Quinebaug Valley Rail Trail across the street from the Golden Greek restaurant on Route 131.
At noon today, officials held a ground breaking for work on the rail trail.
In recent days, Southbridge public works employees, during off hours, opened 1,700 feet of the trail. But they stopped because they reached one of two bridge crossings, Town Manager Christopher Clark said yesterday.
About 5,300 feet are left to go to reach the Dudley line, Mr. Clark said.
Work in Southbridge and Dudley is being done with a $200,000 state earmark, Mr. Clark said.
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, is credited with helping secure a $700,000 federal earmark for the trail, for work on the same side of the street as the restaurant, but headed in the other direction, the manager said.
Southbridge and Dudley are splitting the state money, with credit going to state Rep. Geraldo Alicea, D-Charlton, and more to state Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, because the effort was in place before Mr. Alicea took office in 2006, the manager said.
“I told the senator and representative I would get this project moving and start to show them some results,” Mr. Clark said.
Mr. Clark said the town is “looking at buying some bridges” to bridge two waterways. One waterway is 12 feet wide; the other is 35 feet wide.
Also credited is Marc A. DiPietro, president of D & D Welding and Salvage Corp. on 146 Ashland Ave., who is renting equipment to the town at a discount.
Mr. DiPietro's company made a device that looks like a tractor but has wheels enabling it to move along the tracks. The machine picks up the rails but keep them intact.
The rails are being stored in Dudley, until the state Department of Transportation decides what to do with them.
Dudley began its rail trail work in May, beginning off Mill Road, where highway workers cut trees and removed stumps for a small, paved parking area within the state rail trail right of way.
The Southbridge manager said he does not plan to build a parking lot here for trail-goers. Instead, Mr. Clark said he plans to contact local businesses about making some of their parking spaces available.