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New parking spaces planned for Depot Street

BRATTLEBORO—Later this year, the parking area along Depot Street will gain more elbow room.

The town has moved forward with its plan for additional parking spaces in the area sandwiched between the train tracks and the Connecticut River. At its Feb. 2 meeting, the Selectboard approved a $25,300 design contract, plus out-of-pocket expenses, with Stevens & Associates, PC, an engineering and architecture firm based in town.

“[Depot Street] doesn’t look much like a street,” Town Manager Peter Elwell said. “Most people think of it as the parking lot — depending on what your intentions are, as either the parking lot across from the train station or the parking lot across from Whetstone Station Restaurant.”

Board members authorized town staff to expedite the project last December.

The town has approved $366,000 to modify the lot this fall ahead of the new train station Amtrak plans to construct during spring 2022.

The station will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and feature a level-boarding platform. It also includes accessible parking spaces, two ramps between the parking area and the platform, and a waiting area.

The new building will consume approximately 10 of Depot Street’s current parking spaces.

Elwell described the present parking area as “already stretched to capacity,” but Board Clerk Ian Goodnow pointed out that the town’s project will add approximately 35 new spaces.

“That’s a net gain of 25 spaces,” Goodnow said.

The first of many steps

Town staff hope to update Depot Street and add more parking spaces before the station is built, Elwell said — a project he described as “a $5 million gift to our town.”

“We need to move quite quickly,” he said.

According to Elwell, the board’s approval of the $25,300 engineering and design contract represents the first of many steps.

Along with the designs, the town also needs to complete permitting and apply for grant funding, all of which Elwell hopes will culminate in a fall construction start.

Elwell noted that for most construction projects, design work is budgeted at 10 percent of the total cost. For the Depot Street project, Stevens & Associate’s proposal is less than the standard percentage.

Town staff feel the proposal is complete and fair, he said.

Board Vice-Chair Liz McLoughlin said that she has reviewed similar proposals and thought Stevens & Associates had delivered a good one.

“It’s a very complex site and there are many issues that they are knowledgeable about,” she said.

Some of the site constraints along Depot Street include a capped brownfield site, the train tracks, and Barrows & Fisher Oil’s nearby fuel storage.

“[Being local is] part of the reason they’re able to quote a reasonable fee for this,” Elwell said. “Stevens & Associates actually did substantial design work for the parking lot that exists there today.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #599 (Wednesday, February 10, 2021). This story appeared on page A3.

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