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Preparing the ground

Town holds last public meeting on Main Street sidewalk project

BRATTLEBORO—To pave the way for a large sidewalk project next year, the town of Brattleboro and contractors held the final public meeting to collect input on the project’s conceptual designs.

A handful of people gathered in the Selectboard Meeting Room of the Municipal Center on July 31 to discuss conceptual designs for the approximately $600,000 project slated to break ground next spring.

Monies to repair the approximately 2,100 feet of sidewalk come from town capital funds and state grants.

Contractors are the Dufresne Group, consulting engineers with headquarters in Windsor; and Good Earth Landscaping Company in Proctorsville. They will repair portions of the east side of the downtown sidewalk from Walnut Street south to the Kyle Gilbert Bridge.

According to Public Works Director Steve Barrett and Dufresne Group engineer Christina Legge, the repaving project won’t replace all existing sidewalk.

The state repaved portions of Route 5 and installed new traffic lights downtown in 2010. Portions of sidewalk in downtown were also replaced. The 2014 repaving project will focus on the older portions of sidewalk in need of repair.

According to Legge, and Tim Calabrese of Good Earth Landscaping, the new sidewalk will incorporate a strip of brick, granite curbing, and new trees.

Starting at Walnut Street, the new sidewalk will be 32 feet wide with a strip of brick on the road side to help “break up the sea of concrete,” said Calabrese. The brick strip will end as the sidewalk narrows in front of TD Bank. The strip of brick will start again near Key Bank and continue downtown.

Responding to a question from the audience, Calabrese said the brick strip is not permeable to rain water, but that he would look into incorporating permeable materials.

The project also calls for pre-cast planters, some cubes for sitting in front of the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, and bike racks.

Some larger bump-outs intended for the section of Main Street between High and Elliot streets have been eliminated as they could interfere with deliveries, said Calabrese.

The existing honey locust trees downtown will stay, he added. Additional trees, called Callery pear, will be planted.

Around the new trees, and existing trees if there’s enough material, the contractors will add a mixture of permeable stone, said Calabrese. This stone moves and allows the tree to expand without impeding the sidewalk.

During construction, contractors will take care to protect the existing trees, said Calabrese.

Contingencies to maintain as much access as possible to business and temporary pedestrian walkways will be in place, said Legge.

To help define and slow traffic entering and exiting Walnut Street, contractors will raise the sidewalk in front of the Fleming Oil building.

The existing sidewalk is flush with the road, making Walnut Street appear wider, said Legge.

Early plans to narrow the driveway into Merchants Bank have been axed, said Legge.

Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland read a handwritten letter on behalf of Richard Schultz of Spruce Street. In his letter, Schultz urged the contractors to forgo cement in favor of more attractive materials like brick. Schultz also asked that the project install granite curbing.

Another audience member asked if the project would reimburse small businesses that may lose money because of construction.

Legge said that this project had not budgeted for such an expense. The town promoting the project by saying “businesses are still open” will have the biggest effect on people continuing to come downtown, she said.

The town budgets $70,000 a year for repairing its 38 miles of sidewalks, said Barrett.

Sidewalks cost about $100 per linear foot, he said, adding that $70,000 does not go very far.

One year, the town used its $70,000 budget to repair the portion of Canal Street between Birge and Maple streets. It was a big project, said Barrett, but not a long portion of sidewalk.

Dufresne and Good Earth will incorporate comments from the public hearing into the project design, said Legge. Next, the contractors will develop preliminary drawings. Those drawings will go to the Selectboard for approval.

Next, the contractors will develop more detailed drawings, called 85 percent drawings.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation, the largest funder of the project, approves the detailed drawings before the project goes out for bid this year.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #215 (Wednesday, August 7, 2013).

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