Route 30 bike path seen as model for VTrans partnerships

CORNWALL — Route 30 has always been a popular road for cyclists and joggers wanting to mix exercise with an appreciation of breathtaking vistas. But the narrowness of the road and the speed of the vehicles that travel it long made it a risky recreational proposition for people on two feet or two wheels.
Not anymore.
A throng of area cyclists on Sunday symbolically christened a newly widened, 3.4-mile stretch of Route 30 from its intersection with Route 74 in Cornwall village to Middlebury College’s Ralph Myhre Golf Course. The stretch is 3.5 feet wider on each side, work that was timed to coincide with the repaving of a large section of Route 30 by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) that began late last year and continued into 2011.
It is the first example of a collaboration on a bike/pedestrian path involving VTrans and a local advocacy group, noted Anne Knowles, chairwoman of the Cornwall Bike Path Committee.
“We are very pleased,” Knowles said late last week as she and others prepared to ride, single file, the length of the new bike path to the golf course for some refreshments and speeches.
“Imagine — it’s finally done,” said fellow committee member Bruce Byers, who noted the potential for the new path to attract tourists. “This could become a place for bikers to come during the summer.”
This latest effort to establish a bike path linking Cornwall with Middlebury began around 10 years ago, when a group of local citizens explored the feasibility of a path along Route 125. During the spring of 2005, the group successfully sought funding through the Addison County Regional Planning Commission to study options for building a path along either Route 125 or Route 30.
The Route 30 path emerged as the most viable option. That’s in part due to the fact that VTrans’s road assessment program rated Route 30 as being in worse condition than Route 125.
Cornwall Bike Path Committee members noted that VTrans was developing a major repaving project for Route 30 that would encompass the 3.4-mile stretch being eyed for the path. And the extra 3.5 feet of width being sought on both sides of Route 30 was comfortably within the state’s right of way, meaning there was no need to negotiate for private property acquisition.
Supporters worked hard to raise the estimated $200,000 it would take to help make the Cornwall-Middlebury path possible. That sum, Knowles explained, primarily paid for the stone base to support the expanded shoulders of the new path. Fund-raising got a huge shot in the arm through a $155,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant through VTrans. That grant carried a $35,000 local match, which was provided through the towns of Middlebury and Cornwall, and Middlebury College.
The project finally came to fruition this summer after overcoming some cost overruns and some inaccuracies in the temporary striping (lines painted on the road).
Organizers are now celebrating the accomplishment and touting it as something that could be replicated in other communities seeking to improve amenities and safety for cyclists, joggers and hikers.
“This was kind of a pioneering project,” Byers said. “If other towns are interested in having wider (road) shoulders and more safety, there is a way to do it.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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