Wilmington designs footbridge ramp, making travel easier for bicyclists, families, elderly pedestrians


WILMINGTON — A new feature for the footbridge downtown is in the works.

That would be a ramp on the side closer to the MOOver facility, which will make travelling easier for bicyclists, families with strollers and elderly pedestrians.

"It's a wooden structure but with metal railings," said Zoning Administrator Craig Ohlson. "We've always wanted to do a ramp but it's finally happening."

The subject will come up again with the Development Review Board on Sept. 19. Designs have been run by Agency of Natural Resources and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, according to Ohlson.

The DRB needs to give the project a rubber stamp because the bridge is within the floodplain and the historic district. The ramp will not and does not need to be compliant with guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Obviously, the bridge is not historic in nature so it's primarily the floodplain and design of it too," said Ohlson. "We've been going around in circles on this. It's been continued by the DRB a few times, mostly because there are so many players and everyone wants to do something else."

The bridge, known as Reardon's Crossing, was donated to the town by Barry Reardon and built in May 2013. Concerns from ANR caused the town to raise it towards the end of last year. The bridge, located on property at 29 Shafter Street and 36 Main Street that crosses the Deerfield River, was within the "base flood elevation."

According to FEMA, the term is used to describe the "computed elevation to which floodwater" is expected to rise during a base flood. These elevations are shown on flood insurance rate maps, included in flood profiles and used for floodproofing structures. The relationship between the BFE and the bridge's elevation determines costs around flood insurance.

Local officials wanted a ramp built since the bridge was raised.

"I don't know how we're going to fund it. I don't know if we're going to take it out of the 1 percent (local option tax fund) or what we're going to do," Ohlson said, adding that Reardon had recently come to a few meetings and said he would be willing to help pay the costs because it was something he also wanted to see done.

Access had become an issue since the bridge was altered, said Ohlson.

"We realized we had to do something. We did put up a set of stairs just for a stop-gap measure," he said. "On this side, the bridge is basically 4.5 feet higher than it had been when it was first put in there. The other side ended up being a little bit over 2 feet higher."

The hope was to complete the project by fall. But Ohlson is not sure whether that can be achieved.

"Never say never," he said.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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