Bid for downtown sidewalk funding hits the road
Westport will seek a grant of approximately $500,000 from the state's new Main Street Investment Fund for sidewalk construction and improvements in the downtown area, after the Representative Town Meeting this week unanimously approved submitting the application to the state Office of Policy and Management.
Started in June, the Main Street Investment Fund will offer grants totaling as much as $500,000 to communities with fewer than 30,000 residents or municipalities eligible for the state's Small Town Economic Assistance Program. Towns can use the grants for projects related to sidewalk construction, building renovations, street lighting, signs, recreational space or "other renovations deemed necessary to contribute to the economic success of the municipality," according to a statement released last month by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office.
"We've looked for projects that are consistent with the program," said Lou Gagliano, chairman of Westport's Downtown 2020 Committee, which proposed the grant application.
Downtown 2020's proposal envisions a total of approximately 6,200 linear feet of new sidewalks on Main Street next to Veterans Green, on Post Road West from Ludlow Road to Wright Street, on Imperial Avenue from Thomas Road to Gault Avenue, on Elm Street and Myrtle Avenue. The committee's plan also recommends a rebuilt sidewalk on Main Street from Avery Place to Canal Street, granite curbing on Main Street between Post Road East and Avery Place and new decorative light poles and tree grates on Main Street.
"We think it's a good application and a good grant," Dewey Loselle, an RTM member from District 5, said at Tuesday's meeting. "It's a win-win for the town of Westport."
Gagliano and Public Works Director Steve Edwards produced the list of prospective sidewalk additions and renovations. All the sidewalk construction would be done on town-owned property or land where the town has the rights to build sidewalks, according to Gagliano.
The prospective sidewalk construction is one of the first major projects proposed by Downtown 2020, a panel appointed earlier this year by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff to develop new downtown revitalization initiatives. Building the new and revamped sidewalks epitomizes one of Downtown 2020's goals -- improving pedestrian safety and accessibility in the town center.
"I am supporting anything that enhances pedestrian safety in the town," said Lou Mall, District 2. "That's what this certainly does."
The application also picked up the backing of the Board of Selectmen last month.
Westport's portion of the Main Street Investment Fund's $5 million grant total could range from nothing to its approximately $500,000 request. The town would not pay for any of the downtown sidewalk construction. Subsequent downtown improvement projects would not affect the new sidewalks, according to Gagliano.
Informing the RTM that he did not expect the town to receive all of its requested grant money, Edwards said he would manage a smaller grant allocation by prioritizing streetscape projects based on their proximity to the town center and traffic patterns. He identified improvements in the stretch of Main Street between Post Road East and Avery Place as his top priority.
"The intent here is to try to improve the town infrastructure," Edwards said. "It depends on where I get the most bang out of the buck.
If the OPM approves a grant allocation to Westport, construction of the new sidewalks could begin by April 2013, according to Gagliano.
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