Chester awarded $800,000 sidewalk grant for Depot Street

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The grant will make pedestrian access around the Depot and Town Hall easier. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The Town of Chester has announced that it has been awarded $800,000 for an extensive sidewalk project that will be the first large-scale result of the recently completed Village Center Master Plan.

According to Executive Assistant Julie Hance,  VTrans’ Bicycle and Pedestrian Program awarded the grant that must be matched with $200,000 from the town for a total project budget of $1 million. The match will come from the town’s capital budget.

The project will upgrade approximately 2,300 feet of sidewalk along Depot Street beginning at Town Hall and ending at Bargfrede Road. The project will include widening the existing sidewalk, replacing it with concrete, installing granite curbing and adding a grass strip between the sidewalk and the road. The grass strip will feature smaller, pedestrian scale street lights.

The Depot Street sidewalk looking north toward the Depot

The project will also provide a pedestrian crossing at the railroad and reconfigure the intersection at Coach Road as well as the triangle where Depot and Maple streets meet.

With Green Mountain Railroad taking a heightened interest in the historic Chester Depot by adding parking and more tourist excursions, a comfortable walkway to downtown Chester could benefit businesses. As it stands now, that strip of walkway has long been an eyesore and hazard with its broken, uneven, narrow or missing pavement.

The grant comes from a discretionary portion of the Federal Surface Transportation Block Grant, which is administered by VTrans. The bike/ped program is intended to improve access and safety for biking and walking, according to program manager Jon Kaplan.

Kaplan met with Hance and walked the project area, noting that it is in a “designated village center” and links the train station by foot with the downtown. “It also connects the town office and Lisai’s to downtown,” said Kaplan.

The triangle and existing sidewalk as Depot Street turns west.

The program gives out about $3 million a year on average according to  Kaplan, “So the $800,000 is on the upper end of this program.”

Kaplan said that federal funds come with a number of requirements that must be met, noting that it will be three to four years before construction begins. “2020 or 2021 would be realistic for a construction start,” said Kaplan.

“Work from  this grant will make the town more attractive, pedestrian friendly and  connected,” said Select Board chair  Arne Jonynas.“The timing could not be better. There’s a growing sense of pride and involvement in our town with lots of exciting projects in the works.”

“Infrastructure projects like this will be a catalyst for further economic development efforts,” said Town Manager David Pisha.

Once the project documents are finalized, the town can take the first step of putting out a request for qualifications from design engineers. That will probably be early next year.

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  1. Carla Westine says:

    Wonderful grant writing effort by Julie Hance, Executive Assistant for the Town of Chester!

    All are invited to a presentation about the recently completed “Village Center Master Plan” being hosted at The American Legion Post 67 in Chester, on Thursday evening, Oct. 19 at 6:30 pm. Come learn about the designation, the process, the plan, this grant and what it all means for Chester’s future. It will be a relaxed, informal presentation, refreshments will be served and questions welcomed. Hope to see many of you there!