Towns sidewalk projects gaining ground (8/13/09)

Segments slated for Mountain View, Vt. 2A

Aug. 13, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The town of Williston will soon construct a recreation path along Mountain View Road, a major milestone in stop-and-go efforts to build bike and pedestrian byways with bond funding approved five years ago.


    Image courtesy of the town of Williston
The map above shows sidewalks that have been proposed in Williston.

The segment, which will run about two-thirds of a mile from North Williston Road to Old Stage Road, has been put out to bid. Construction should start next month and be completed before the construction season ends in October, said Public Works Director Neil Boyden.

The work will move forward despite the fact that two property owners along the route have yet to grant easements for the path. Boyden said he was optimistic that those agreements will be struck before construction starts.

If not, he said, the portion of the path running along those properties  — 300 to 400 feet — will not be built but could be filled in at a later date.

Boyden declined to say who owns the property because publicity could stymie delicate negotiations. He said the owners are “concerned about encroachment on the privacy of their land and how it will affect their lifestyle,” the same issues raised by other landowners who have balked at providing easements in the past.

Indeed, the time-consuming process of getting easements, along with permitting issues, has slowed work on all three segments to be funded entirely by a $2.6 million bond issue approved by voters in 2004: North Williston Road, from U.S. 2 to Mountain View Road; Mountain View Road, from North Williston Road to Old Stage Road; and U.S. 2, from North Brownell Road to Taft Corners. Only the North Williston Road segment is finished, and only after the width of the path was scaled back to allay neighbors’ concerns.

On Mountain View Road, construction was initially delayed as a few homeowners in the Pleasant Acres neighborhood refused to provide easements. Those easements have now been obtained, Boyden said, but a couple of other property owners nearer to the Old Stage Road end of the project have yet to strike agreements with the town.

Other property owners, however, enthusiastically support the path.

“We told them to go for it,” said Scott Adams, co-owner of Adams Apple Orchard & Farm Market at the intersection of Mountain View and Old Stage roads.

He said the path would give customers — particularly children — a safe way to reach the business.

“A lot of people who have children who walk or bike to the store have been waiting anxiously for them to finalize the project,” Adams said, adding that another much-discussed sidewalk extension along Old Stage Road would complete the connection.

The town has received a $20,000 federal grant for permitting and design work on that sidewalk, which would run northward from Wildflower Circle. Boyden said once that is completed, the town will apply for another grant to actually build the sidewalk. He said there is only a “slim” chance the project will be completed in 2010 because of the long lead time involved with applying for and receiving grants.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to complete other sidewalks and recreation paths around Williston.

Construction is scheduled to begin next week on a 750-foot-long sidewalk running from Taft Corners Shopping Center to the East Orchid restaurant on Vermont 2A. The $68,000 project, funded through the town’s capital budget, fills in a gap along the busy thoroughfare, allowing pedestrians to walk from the shopping center to Zephyr Road and Knight Lane.

There are also plans to construct a recreation path along Vermont 2A between River Cove Road and James Brown Drive. The town received a $225,000 state grant for the project earlier this year, but work will be delayed until at least 2010 while the town awaits permits and easements.

When the Mountain View Road segment is completed, two bond-funded stretches will remain, one along U.S. 2 west of Blair Park and another on Vermont 2A from the Meadow Run subdivision to Zephyr Lane. The latter is to be partially funded by bonds, with the rest of the money coming from state or federal grants.

Still on the drawing board is a segment from James Brown Drive to the Winooski River Bridge.

The town’s goal is to eventually connect existing sidewalks along Vermont 2A and in other parts of town, allowing pedestrians, bicyclists and runners to traverse most parts of Williston.