COG looking to enhance walking, bicycling

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BY ANDREAS YILMA
CITIZENS NEWS
NAUGATUCK – The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments is looking to get feedback from borough residents about a transportation plan to enhance mobility.

NVCOG is in the early stages of developing the regional organization’s first transportation project, the Naugatuck Valley Active Transportation Plan, to enhance walking and bicycling.

Once completed, the plan would guide future infrastructure investments to improve the experience for pedestrians and cyclists with the ultimate goal of mobility equity.

“We want to start here because of all the great work you guys have going on in Naugatuck around active transportation,” NVCOG Director of Transportation Planning Richard Donovan said.

NVCOG consists of 19 municipalities including Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethlehem, Bristol, Cheshire, Derby, Middle[JUMP]bury, Naugatuck, Oxford, Plymouth, Prospect, Seymour, Shelton, Southbury, Thomaston, Waterbury, Watertown, Wolcott and Woodbury.

The regional organization published an online survey to learn about residents’ walking, rolling and cycling experiences, challenges as well as what the residents would like to see. Residents can fill out the survey at https://arcg.is/yKyKW.

“We as the 19 town region here want to help guide the towns to implement strategy so that instead of a bunch disconnected networks, we have one logical, regional network and that starts with what is going to be the spine of our system, the Naugatuck River Greenway,” Donovan said. “That 44-mile trail between Torrington and Derby will not only open up the opportunity for people to get around but will serve as the center of a broader network and the goal is for that center to then have spines coming off into each of our towns and into each of our communities.”

Once that network is in place, the final piece would be getting the connections locally and those are the sidewalks, bike lanes and the in-town type of facilities, Donovan said.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses in February approved a resolution for NVCOG to apply for a U.S. Department of Transportation grant called “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” program to develop the Naugatuck River Greenway trail.

“The goal again is to put a plan together that’s useful for everyone, something that can be not only a resource for towns as you’re planning what your future active transportation network might look like but something that helps you put grant applications together. Something you can point to that says this is something thought out not just in your town but across the entire region.” Donovan said.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said he would share the transportation plan survey on his social media.

“Speaking for myself and I think almost everyone in Naugatuck, we’re all in on the Greenway plan,” Hess said.

Donovan said if NVCOG is successful in its application for the U.S. DOT grant for the RAISE program, the organization would get the design done and well prepared to go out to construction for a 16-mile section of the Greenway from Breen Field to East Main Street in Thomaston.

“The goal here is to start really connecting downtowns and start connecting cities. There’s segments of the trail that are built. They’re relatively small. The closest we have to connecting downtowns right now is between Derby and Ansonia but it doesn’t go into downtown Ansonia and so while the trail is starting to come together as a recreational resource, it’s yet to reach its potential as an economic driver, as a means of transportation.”

Hess said the borough has already been awarded a $400,000 connectivity grant to improve the area near St. Francis church at 318 Church St. Improvements will include better bike access, not just downtown but out to the Greenway and beyond.

“We’re already in and we will do whatever we can to promote it further but the greenways are fantastic not just for the residents and recreation but for economic development,” Hess said.