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ORANGE : Federal Funds to Be Sought for Bicycle Trail

The city has agreed to join Tustin, Villa Park and Orange County in seeking federal funds to turn an abandoned railroad bed into a bike and walking trail.

The project, called the Tustin Branch Bicycle Trail, had been stalled by homeowner protests but was approved by the City Council on Tuesday after residents heard assurances from the California Department of Transportation that the trail would not increase crime in the area.

The transportation agency held three field trips last summer to assure homeowners that the trail would neither diminish their privacy nor attract criminals, said Jere Murphy, the city’s advanced planning manager.

The old Southern Pacific rail bed begins in north Tustin and runs along Esplanade and Prospect streets, ending at Glassell Street in Orange after passing briefly through Villa Park and some unincorporated areas.

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The 20-foot-wide path, suitable for bicycles and walkers, would cost the city about $75,000 a year to maintain, Murphy said.

Only one neighbor of the seven-mile path protested at a public hearing Tuesday, while several spoke in favor of the project.

“We really feel it would cause a lot of break-ins,” said Dana Bosch, who said that her neighbors on Morningside Lane also oppose the path. “The police cannot patrol during the day while we’re at work.”

But others said the trail would create a gathering place for neighbors and preserve some of the city’s dwindling open space. “It would offer some recreational activities that are becoming more remote as time goes on,” resident Linda Hidy said.

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The council voted 5 to 0 to pursue the $2.7-million federal grant. Land donated by Southern Pacific would be the equivalent of the $400,000 in required matching funds.

Winning the grant is not assured, because several groups besides the Orange County coalition have applied for the money, officials said. The California Transportation Commission will announce the winner in the spring.


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