A section of the Valley Trail. (Chris Mays/Reformer)
A section of the Valley Trail. (Chris Mays/Reformer)

DOVER -- With the preliminary design for the Valley Trail expansion ready for official review, Economic Development Specialist Ken Black says that 2015 looks realistic for accomplishing the project.

"I recommend we split it into two projects and do the north of Dorr Fitch first, which I think is basically the start of the district," he said. "To the south of (Dorr Fitch) is going to require a bridge to go across the North Branch (of the Deerfield) River."

The north side is estimated to cost $400,000, while the south side is projected to cost $100,000 to $200,000.

For the project, Black has been hoping to secure an enhancement grant through the Vermont Agency of Transportation that would cut down on costs to the town.

Previously, Black was given permission to go after easements for the town so that "Valley Trail A" will go from Tollgate Village and link to where the paved portion known as "Valley Trail B" currently sits. The process of acquiring easements will have to wait a bit. There are eight needed to complete the project. Two are temporary or construction permits while the rest are permanent easements.

Before any agreements with the landowners are set in ink, VTrans must approve the preliminary design report. This process generally takes a month.

"It could be less, depending on how many others (need review). Unfortunately, we can't go out and get any of the easements until the preliminary design is approved. If it is changed, we'd be telling people the wrong story," said Black. "We can't develop the right of way signing document until approval."

A new part of the easement process includes giving appraisals to property owners where the land may be worth more than $10,000.

After meeting with VTrans and an engineer involved in the design aspect earlier in the month, Black reported to the Selectboard on Jan. 7. Supportive of his recommendation to split the project into two, the board was given an idea of just how the expansion of the trail will move forward.

VTrans essentially will manage the federal grant that was obtained for the trail work.

"There is a very specific procedure that they follow in order to get a hold of that $300,000 we have been given," said Black.

He also mentioned the implementation of a landscape architectural piece for the trail as well as lighting.

"I think that both VTrans and the engineer thought that was a fairly simple thing that should not propose any problem nor from the particular grant piece itself," he added. "We did find there are a lot of delay situations just caused by the amount of work and approval processes they need to go through."

Black was told that the expansion was not likely to take as long as projected in a rough estimate of the entire process that VTrans had given him. Starting the construction phase in Spring 2015 seems realistic, he said.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.