Selectmen get breakdown of streetscape extension

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Beacon Falls officials are considering extending the streetscape from where it ends at the intersection of Bethany Road, pictured above, to Riverbend Park on Nancy Avenue. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — A plan to extend the downtown streetscape to Riverbend Park would cost more than $3 million.

Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments Senior Regional Planner Aaron Budris presented information to the Board of Selectmen Monday on what it would take to extend the streetscape.

The streetscape, which opened in 2012, runs along South Main Street from the Depot Street Bridge south to the intersection of Bethany Road. Officials have expressed interest in extending the walkway about three-quarters of a mile to Riverbend Park, which the town has been improving, on Nancy Avenue.

Budris said the project would cost an estimated $3.26 million. He said 80 percent of the cost could be covered by the Federal Transit Administration’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This would leave the town to pay about $650,000 for the project.

Budris said the FAST Act is one of the few federal programs that is specifically aimed at improving bicycling and walking trails.

“These funds don’t come around very often. Every five years,” Budris said.

The program is highly competitive and there isn’t enough money to fund every project, Budris said. In Connecticut, the money from the program is split between the state Department of Transportation and the councils of government, he said. The DOT is able to spend its money on any project the state wants to. The money that goes to the COGs will be spent on their respective municipalities, he said.

Under the proposal, the streetscape would be extended as it looks now with lights and wooden guardrails. Budris said the proposed extension would close off one of the southbound traffic lanes.

“The traffic volumes on Route 42 don’t warrant two lanes,” Budris said.

A portion of the median near the Route 8 Exit 23 on- and off-ramps would have to be removed to accommodate the streetscape as the road narrows, Budris added.

The streetscape ends at the intersection of Bethany Road because the road south is owned by the state. Connecticut Department of Transportation Spokesman Judd Everhart previously said the department would be willing to listen to the town and consider the proposal.

With the town making improvements to Riverbend Park, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said it would make sense to extend the streetscape.

“The thought process was, with the development of Riverbend Park down there right now, it provides a really attractive terminus compared to where the streetscape currently ends,” Bielik said.

Budris echoed Bielik’s sentiment.

“It makes a lot of sense. I think you’ll get a lot more people using the greenway if it actually connects to the park,” Budris said.

The streetscape is part of the planned Naugatuck River Greenway, a 44-mile trail that will eventually extend from Derby to Torrington.

Budris said the Naugatuck River Greenway Steering Committee identified the segment in Beacon Falls as one of the top five priorities along the planned greenway, Budris said.

“This section makes a lot of sense to try to tackle next,” Budris said.

However, just because the project has a lot of support, it doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to get any money from the FAST Act, Budris said.

“Just because we think this is a great idea doesn’t mean it is going to happen. It means we have to fight for it,” Bielik said.

Budris said, if the project receives funding, the NVCOG would look for other sources of funding to help offset the town’s cost. He said if the town wants to pursue the funding he needs to know by the end of the month.

Selectman Michael Krenesky said he likes the idea of extending the streetscape, but the town has to figure out where it wants to spend money.

“It is a wonderful thing and I would love to see it extended. But I think we need to go in and make a decision about what are the capital plans we want to do in Beacon Falls,” Krenesky said.

He pointed out that the town is working on repaving and reconstructing roads as well as looking into the possibility of building a $6 million community media center.

“We need to set a priority before we get too far down the road with just pushing this as to what is the best for the betterment of the town, where are we, and how are we going to fund all of that,” Krenesky said.

The board took no action on the issue on Monday.

1 COMMENT

  1. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Mr Bielik is embarking on a project without full funding in place. With sewer plant upgrades and many more deteriorating roads in need of repair is he really going down this road. Mr Krenesky please make sure the towns true priorities are considered.