Williston secures grant for sidewalk construction (5/14/09)

Segment slated for Vermont 2A

May 14, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Williston has received a $225,000 grant that will boost a long-running effort to build sidewalks and stretch previously approved bond funding for the effort.

The grant, from the state’s Transportation Enhancement Program, will fund 80 percent of the cost of a sidewalk on Vermont 2A between River Cove Road and James Brown Drive. The town will pick up the balance of the estimated $282,000 total cost.

The segment will run approximately 1,000 feet, said Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden. Standard sidewalks are 6 feet wide, but the grant-funded project will be 10 feet wide, designed to accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Williston voters in 2004 approved a $2.6 million bond to pay for new sidewalks. Town officials sought bond funding because money set aside for sidewalks in the capital budget kept getting cut each year in an effort to reduce property taxes.

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 all of Williston.

Three segments are to be funded entirely by bonds: 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 has been completed.

The River Cove Road/James Brown Drive sidewalk is one of two Vermont 2A segments for which voters authorized bond funding only if the town obtains state or federal grants to pay for most of the work.

Sidewalk construction has moved slowly, in part because the town has struggled to obtain easements. To date, the town has used only about a third — $824,730 — of the authorized bond funding, according to Susan Lamb, the town’s finance director.

Work on Mountain View Road and U.S. 2 has been delayed by a small number of property owners who have refused to grant permission to run sidewalks through their yards.

The town also needs to acquire easements along the Vermont 2A stretch before any construction can begin. But Boyden said landowners are generally supportive of the project.

He noted that businesses that would benefit from the foot traffic comprise about half the property owners along the busy stretch, where it is difficult to safely walk or ride a bicycle.

“It’s pretty tough for pedestrians or people just going out for a recreational walk or a bicyclist to navigate 2A,” he said. “It probably has the highest average daily traffic in Williston.”

Even after the grant-funded segment is built, stretches of Vermont 2A will remain without sidewalks. Still on the drawing board are segments from James Brown Drive to the Winooski River Bridge and from the Meadow Run subdivision to Zephyr Lane.

The town is hoping to obtain federal stimulus money to pay for both sidewalk and paving projects. Boyden said he is still awaiting word on funding requests.

It is unlikely that the River Cove Road/James Brown Drive sidewalk will be constructed this year, he said. Meeting the grant’s documentation requirements, obtaining permits and getting easements will probably delay the project until the 2010 construction season.