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Hartford Seeks State Funding  To Update Paths

Officials Can Now Apply for Grants To Study Safety Improvements

West Hartford — The Hartford Selectboard granted Planning and Development department officials permission Tuesday night to apply for state funding to explore ways of making West Hartford Village more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.

The approval will allow the town to seek matching grants from the Transportation Alternatives Program under the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The grant money would help the town plan and fund pathways through the village — part of Hartford’s quest to provide safe travel routes for residents.

The proposed pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements in West Hartford — which could include anything from gravel walkways to concrete sidewalks — would run seven-tenths of a mile beginning near the old West Hartford Post Office, across from Clifford’s Garage, and stretch to Tigertown Road along Route 14. A second proposed three-tenths of a mile improvement would start at the West Hartford Bridge and extend down Quechee West Hartford Road to the south entrance of Westfield Drive.

“There are a lot of people who have to walk up and down the road and sometimes people don’t go the speed limit,” said West Hartford resident Arthur S. Peale in an interview Tuesday. “Also, once the library opens back up, lots of people will be going to the library and walking back and forth.”

A unique feature of the proposed West Hartford Village improvements — versus the half dozen other design, scoping study or construction grants that are ongoing in Hartford — is that the village’s center would connect with the Appalachian Trail, thereby adding a measure of safety for hikers. Currently, hikers and other pedestrians walk along the shoulder of the road.

West Hartford resident Stephen Gilbert, who lives off Route 14, said a designated walking area would heighten safety along the road.

“With all of the Appalachian Trail hikers that come through, it might be a good idea to keep them out of the road,” Gilbert said, noting he hadn’t witnessed any close calls between vehicles and pedestrians, but added “I know there have been.”

If the town is awarded the grant, the funds would go toward hiring a consultant to conduct an engineering study, which would examine aspects such as right-of-way issues, road alignments, environmental impacts and cost estimates of the project, according to a Planning and Development department memo presented to the Selectboard. Multiple public forums will be held throughout the process, said Hartford City Planner Matt Osborn.

In January, the town will find out if it is awarded grant funding, and if so, the funds are expected to be doled out by spring 2014, the memo stated. The total project costs, which include the study, land surveys and consultant costs, are $28,000. The grant would cover half of those costs, and the other half would be a local match from the town.

If the town isn’t awarded grant funding, officials can reapply in the spring, Osborn said.

The town of Hartford has received more than $1 million in Transportation Alternatives and Transportation Enhancement Program grants since 1999, according to the memo. Those funds have gone — or will go to — design and construction of sidewalks, bike lanes or designated pathways on Sykes Mountain Avenue and Railroad Row in White River Junction, to name a few. A similar study to the one that would be completed in West Hartford is currently ongoing in Quechee Village.

“We are sort of in the thick of it,” Selectboard Chairman Chuck Wooster said in regard to the various pedestrian and cyclist improvement projects in the five villages.

Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said the projects are tackled through a phased-in approach and rely heavily on grant funding, which is a reasons why the projects take time to complete after their initial inception.

“Our goal is to get enough of these in the pipeline so there is always another one coming out the other end,” Rieseberg said. “It works nicely and results in a sidewalk over three to five years.”

Wooster said the West Hartford Village improvements would improve the quality of life in town.

“I think it’s a great idea, part of me because it’s the Appalachian Trail and part of me because there are a lot of people who use that bridge and that village for boating, swimming, hiking and even biking,” Wooster said. “And I think it would also be nice to help to beautify that section of road.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.