BRATTLEBORO — A project to add bike lanes to Western Avenue will stay on schedule despite pleas from community members to not wait for state grant funding and get it done a little bit sooner.
Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the proposed fiscal 2023 budget includes $12,000 to match a potential grant from Vermont Agency of Transportation anticipated to bring construction next year.
"We're really good with getting grants from VTrans, so we'll likely be successful if we pursue this," he said Tuesday at the Select Board meeting.
Several community members asked the board to consider using town money to possibly get the project, which will bring bike lanes to Western Avenue from Main Street to the Exit 2 interchange, completed this year, Moreland said.
"A year in the life of people who bicycle is a long time," said Kathleen White of the Brattleboro Coalition for Active Transportation, whose group requested the expedited process.
Town staff estimate the change in planning could have bumped up the schedule by about six months. Although, they weren't certain.
"We are making a couple of assumptions for this early move," board member Tim Wessel said. "The biggest assumption would be VTrans would be quick at granting our request. Not always the case, not to malign them. But also, we would be dependent on finding a contractor to fit it into their schedule."
Board member Daniel Quipp said residents wouldn't notice the difference in their tax bills, yet road users would certainly notice the new lanes. The project will make the corridor safer and won't cost much to complete faster, added Jonathon Weber, program manager at Local Motion, a statewide nonprofit group advocating for bicyclists and pedestrians.
A motion to add $16,000 to fiscal 2023 capital requests in the budget failed 3-2. The uncertainty of scheduling and potential for a higher price tag were reasons enough for board Vice Chairman Ian Goodnow to oppose the proposal.
The board unanimously supported awarding a sidewalk project that came in much higher than budgeted. Public Works Director Dan Tyler said the section of sidewalk on the west side of South Main Street between Pine Street and just slightly north of the intersection of Cotton Mill Hill is in poor condition and scheduled for reconstruction ahead of another project.
Brattleboro received a $175,000 grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation to repave South Main Street between Main Street and Cotton Mill Hill, which is budgeted to cost about $218,000. South Main Street will be used as a temporary detour when Vernon Street is closed for 90 days in spring 2023 for construction related to the new bridge to Hinsdale, N.H.
"We really felt this is the time to take care of that section," Tyler said of the sidewalk.
When the town put out requests for proposals to replace about 1,375 feet of sidewalk with granite curbing and concrete sidewalks, three bids came in higher than expected. The low bid, $239,869 submitted by Bernie La Rock & Son Inc. of Guilford, was accepted and is about $90,000 more than the town has remaining in a fund for sidewalk projects.
Tyler requested the board approve the bid so the project stays on schedule and the sidewalk can be constructed in the spring, with paving happening afterward. He also asked the board to replenish the over-expenditure in fiscal 2023 capital requests, so other projects can continue on the planned timeline.
Board members noted the sidewalk is in bad condition, and used by students walking to and from three schools.