BEACON FALLS — Nearly four years after the streetscape officially opened downtown, officials are hoping to extend it.
The possibility of extending the streetscape, which runs along South Main Street from the Depot Street Bridge south to the intersection of Bethany Road, was the topic of discussion during an Aug. 29 meeting of the Economic Development Commission and the Board of Selectmen.
According to officials, since the walkway was completed in September 2012 it has been in constant use by pedestrians.
“People have fallen in love with this walkway,” Selectman Peter Betkoski said.
Now, officials are hoping to extend the streetscape about a mile to Riverbend Park on Nancy Avenue.
The streetscape is a part of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Government’s proposed 44-mile greenway trail, which will connect 11 municipalities along the Naugatuck River from Torrington to Derby.
Economic Development Commission Vice Chairman Jeremy Rodorigo said he’s been in contact with Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments Senior Regional Planner Aaron Budris about the plan to extend the streetscape.
According to Rodorigo, Budris was receptive to the idea and said the NVCOG would work to help offset the engineering and development costs.
“They don’t have any money to give us to actually do the project. They indicated it would be upwards of $1 million to facilitate that. However, there are grants that are available that they would be willing to research,” Rodorigo said.
Budris confirmed the NVCOG’s interest in helping the town.
“Continuing the trail south from the existing trail to Riverbend Park by taking one lane of the southbound side of South Main Street (Route 42) is a logical next step, and will build on the previous investment of constructing the existing trail,” Budris said in an email.
While the town has the backing from the NVCOG, it still has a number of hurdles in front of it. One the biggest hurdles is that that stretch of road is overseen by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
Extending the streetscape would mean reducing the road from two lanes to one.
Rodorigo said he spoke with engineers from the DOT in 2014 while they were making repairs to the retaining wall along the northbound side of South Main Street.
“They said narrowing the road from two lanes to one would not be a big deal from an engineering perspective and traffic perspective because it was already done on the northern part [of South Main Street],” Rodorigo said.
Connecticut Department of Transportation Spokesman Judd Everhart said the department would be willing to listen to the town and consider the proposal.
“The onus would be on the town to prove the advantages of such a proposal,” Everhart said.
Budris said the NVCOG is willing to help the town work with the DOT to “gain the permission required to construct the project and navigate the design and permitting process.”
Another hurdle the town faces is the cost of the project. The original streetscape cost approximately $1 million and this stretch is expected to cost the same, Rodorigo said.
Bielik said the town would begin looking into grants, similar to the 80 percent federal grant it received for the previous portion of the streetscape.
Despite the potential for setbacks, Rodorigo is optimistic about the future of the project due to how often the current streetscape is used and the support of the NVCOG.
“The good news is that we have some momentum building up,” Rodorigo said.
Correct me if I’m wrong but the current streetscape was a disaster from the start and underfunded. Where will the money come from? Do we really need to loose another south bound lane. Why doesn’t the EDC focus on bringing business to town and raising revenue rather than create additional expenses.
We don’t need to extend the streetscape.