Bristol bike and foot path would carry a hefty price tag

BRISTOL — A feasibility study for a pedestrian path between Bristol’s downtown district and Lincoln Gap Road is coming to a close, and its findings don’t fare well for residents hoping to make the route safer for walkers, joggers and bike riders.
Three different options — two sidewalk alternatives and a 10-foot wide nature path through the woods on the south side of the New Haven River — were presented to the selectboard on Monday by engineer Corey Mack of the Resource Systems Group in Burlington, who was contracted to conduct this study. The Addison County Regional Planning Commission funded the report.
The sidewalks on this steep grade with multiple variables would cost upwards of $3 million, said Mack, and the nature path would cost about $4.5 million.
“This is probably one of the most expensive sidewalks I’ve ever designed,” he said.
Many options for the paths would pass through privately owned land, and the prices Mack estimated don’t take into account possible legal fees the town would incur as it deals with these residents. The projects would not only cross private land, but would also likely require cutting down numerous trees and fortifying walls or building new walls.
“The long and the short of it is (every option) is pretty impactive. There’s not really any good solution,” said Mack. “There are (avenues) that may cost more, but will be easier to implement. And then there are ones that will be cheaper, but you’re going to have to work with residents.”
One advantage of this project, Mack pointed out, is that it could give the town the opportunity to reduce the potential for future hazards by implementing drainage ditches and other similar safety precautions.
Mack also broke the path up into numerous segments, so that different portions could be built at different times, which could make funding the path more manageable and could allow the town to build a path around stretches of particularly dangerous road.
“I think that the overall best approach is to create a cohesive plan for the entire corridor,” said Mack. “That being said, a segmented approach is probably the most realistic way that anything ever gets built.”
“As depressing as these numbers are, and they’re depressing … this is where we start,” said Town Administrator Bill Bryant. “We get some alternatives. We get some ideas of what the cost range is and start getting some public input and selectboard input like we’re doing tonight … I don’t see funding available, but that’s why we do these studies … right now it’s just kind of pie in the sky.”
In order to get future funding for this project, the town needs to have a feasibility study on file. Although Bryant explained that the best source of funding for projects like this is usually through the Vermont Agency of Transportation enhancement program, which only provides $300,000 per project, he indicated that new funding opportunities do arise.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at andrews@addisonindependent.com.

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