BENNINGTON -- A plan to build a multi-use path along Kocher Drive that needs to close a funding gap of more than $220,000 received support from the Select Board on Monday.
Mark Anders, transportation program manager at the Bennington County Regional Commission, said the project received a federal earmark in 2002 for $490,000. The total cost, however, is estimated at $711,000, leaving a $221,500 gap that needs to be filled. Anders said some aspects of the project are being looked at to see where costs can be cut, but planners intend to talk with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) in the near future about securing additional funding.
The project has some distance to go before completion, but Anders requested, and received, from the board its general approval of the way things are shaping up.
Michael Allen, a senior associate with Behan Planning and Design, a firm based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., said the plan is to build a walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists from the Aldi grocery store on Northside Drive, to East Road, along Kocher Drive. The current draft calls for making the path 10 feet wide, with a 10-foot buffer zone between it and the road. A crosswalk light would be installed at the junction of Kocher Drive and Northside Drive which would include a refuge zone in the middle for people who can’t cross in time. This might eliminate the right turn lane on North Street, but traffic studies have shown the lane is not needed. Additionally, the proposed crosswalk will not slow traffic down past acceptable levels.
Anders said if the Town of Bennington does a portion of the work, money can be saved. The widths of the path and buffer zone can also be adjusted to lower costs.
He said the project is needed because there is no safe way to walk or bike from the Northside Drive area to Kocher Drive. He showed photos of children walking along the shoulder of Kocher Driver going from school to home. These children attend Mount Anthony Union Middle School, Mount Anthony Union High School, Grace Christian School, and Molly Stark Elementary School.
The area is too narrow to be safely walked for a number of reasons, he said, namely guard rails, drainage systems, and a bridge on Kocher Drive.
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