Wilmington gets $300,000 for sidewalk projects


WILMINGTON >> A sidewalk going up East Main Street will get a makeover with the aid of a grant.

"It's fairly large," said Town Manager Scott Murphy, who expects a three-to-four year timeline.

The estimated cost is $396,055 and the VTrans Transportation Alternatives Program grant covers $300,000 of it. The town will pay the rest of the cost and has until the end of the project to do so.

The 2,032 feet of sidewalk starts at an existing crosswalk near the Laterre House and ends at the bridge near the Viking Motel. The project will only focus on the north side of the street, the same side as the motel.

"It would include another proposed crosswalk," said Gretchen Havreluk, Wilmington's economic development consultant. "We have to call it proposed because we've been accepted for the grant but of course we still have to go through the permitting process through the state."

That crosswalk would enable pedestrians to walk across the section of street towards Family Dollar. And new lighting is part of the deal.

A request for proposals will go out looking for an engineer after an agreement between the town and VTrans is signed. A plan will be submitted by an engineer selected by a committee and a public hearing likely will follow. Permitting, then easements will come before construction.

VTrans Municipal Assistance Bureau Director Susan Scribner said approximately $2.2 million of federal funds was provided for the latest round of TAP grants. Over $4.1 million was requested for projects around the state. Half of the money was to go towards environmental mitigation, where in years past most of it went to bicycle and pedestrian projects.

"I'd say it was pretty competitive," said Scribner. "It ebbs and flows. Some years, we've had more requests than that."

Over $7 million was requested last year and $3.4 million was requested the year before that. The agency usually receives the same federal funding. While the program has changed names and eligibilities, it was around since the mid-1990s. Previously, it was known as the Transportation Enhancement Program.

This year, Wilmington, St. Johnsbury, St. Albans, Bennington and Waitsfield received grants for bicycle and pedestrian projects. South Burlington, Shelburne, Fairfield and Essex Junction projects are aimed at improving water quality.

"These kinds of investments promote sustainable transportation choices for Vermonters and add vitality and livability to our downtowns and village centers," said Gov. Peter Shumlin in a press release. "We are leveraging transportation dollars to improve public health, economic vitality, infrastructure resilience and making strides in our effort to improve water quality."

Since flooding occurred with Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, Murphy said the town has focused on different improvements downtown.

"A lot of the buildings were vacant and the ones that were not vacant still looked rough from Irene. The town offered the facade program two years in a row. So that's helped build up some properties and make them more attractive," Murphy said, referring to a program funded through 1 percent local option tax revenue. "The whole infrastructure itself is much better but the things you kind of overlook are things like sidewalks. And that's part of what we're working on now."

New parking, welcoming and directional signs were put up in places downtown. A report from consultants DuBois & King is looked at as a blueprint for enhancing the streetscape, and sidewalks on East Main Street are only part of the overall plan.

Installation of new sidewalks on West Main Street is expected to start this construction season. Murphy hopes they'll be ready by November. The permitting process has already begun. An implementation grant through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program was secured in February 2015.

Officials also are looking at potential grant funding for South Main Street sidewalks. Then there is talk of historic street lights, connecting sidewalks to walking paths downtown and adding crosswalks throughout the downtown.

Concerns around safety have come up in the past.

"In most towns you'll see a separated space, either greenspace or brick in-lay or even some trees or shrubs, and that creates a buffer zone. We don't have that," said Murphy, noting that vehicle operators may not see where a sidewalk ends and a pedestrian may be walking. "Since the town plows the sidewalks and the state plows the highway, snow has no place to go but the sidewalks."

Even though new sidewalks won't necessarily eliminate plow problems, it's an issue that the town is aware of. Murphy said there may be ways to lessen the impact.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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