Bristol merges sidewalk, state paving projects

BRISTOL — Two major construction projects slated for downtown Bristol have been merged into one, which is likely to reduce both cost and disruption to the town.

The town’s Main Street lighting and sidewalk project, which had been tentatively scheduled to begin this fall — and would have posed significant challenges for downtown businesses at their busiest time of year — has been combined with a state project to pave Route 116 through downtown Bristol.

Bristol will still pay for the lighting/sidewalk portion of the merged project, currently estimated at $334,275, and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) will pay for the paving.

DuBois & King (D&K), which will oversee both portions of the merged project, is now looking to begin construction in the spring of 2020.

The town’s lighting/sidewalk portion of the project will be confined to the main business block of downtown Bristol and calls for replacing 14 lampposts on Main Street, replacing the sidewalk on the south (Bobcat) side of the street and realigning the granite curbing.

The state’s paving portion of the project covers the 1.245 miles between Airport Road to the west and the Lord’s Prayer Rock to the east, and is part of the larger Starksboro-to-Middlebury paving project.

According to D&K project manager Jeremy Stevens, who gave a presentation to the Bristol selectboard at its July 8 meeting, the merger will produce a number of benefits for the town’s lighting/sidewalk project, including:

• eliminating conflicts in construction scheduling;

• eliminating a number of items from the sidewalk/lighting project that were already covered by the paving project;

• providing for the sidewalk/lighting project a full-time construction liaison position, which was already included in the VTrans paving project;

• and reducing “currently scoped” construction items for the lighting and sidewalk by about $90,000.

Though Stevens expressed confidence that the merger wouldn’t produce increased costs for the town, he did point out “the potential” for increases in things like design and bidding costs.

“When you go from a town project to a state project it’s just natural for us to feel like there’s more involved there,” he said. “We can’t really identify what that would be, but we put that bullet point in there just in case.”

Still, the town’s lighting/sidewalk project cost has been reduced from $431,000 to a “revised opinion of probable cost” of $334,275.

The new number is almost certain to change, however, not least because the town is still searching for ways to save money.

One cost-cutting option would be to arrange for the Public Works Department — instead of the contractor — to remove the old lighting equipment. Town Administrator Valerie Capels estimated that this could save another $18,000.

The Bristol selectboard approved merging the projects at its July 8 meeting and made a number of other project-related decisions, including:

• The town will request that work in the downtown be performed at night.

• The project will add two new handicapped parking spots on Main Street — one in front of Recycled Reading and the other directly across the street from Holley Hall, and eliminate the handicapped parking spot in front of the National Bank of Middlebury.

• Electrical signage and minor infrastructure will be added to aid with pedestrian crossing on Main Street.

Other decisions still need to be made, including how to pay for the parts of the projects that are Bristol’s responsibility.

A $100,000 Downtown Transportation Fund grant will cover some of Bristol’s costs for the project, and the town has applied for an additional $75,000 grant, Capels said at the meeting.

The selectboard is also considering using some of the proceeds from a land sale last year.

On December 18, the town of Bristol paid the State of Vermont $60,079 for 18.9 acres between Stoney Hill and Lovers Lane, then sold the land to Stanley Livingston/Charley Rose Acres LLC for $185,000, according to property transfer documents.

Other funding sources that have been considered include the Bristol Revolving Loan Fund, the Sidewalks Reserve Fund and the Capital Road Fund.

Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected]

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