Barre bike path undergoes design changes
BARRE — The new bike path that is planned to run through the city has undergone some design changes as one proposed section was found to be too expensive.
Evan Detrick, the city’s consulting engineer for the project, presented an update on the bike path to the City Council on Tuesday and said construction of the path should begin next summer.
To illustrate the design changes, Detrick broke the path down into three sections: the part that begins at the Vermont Granite Museum, the Merchants Row segment and the Barre Town connector segment.
The connector is where the design alterations were deemed necessary. Detrick said the original plan was to have this stretch run from Blodgett Avenue to the existing recreation path and then cut down across the utility corridor to connect to Brooklyn Street.
But he said the area around the utility corridor was found to be far too steep and cost estimates for that one section of the path ranged from $1.5 million to $2.25 million. He said this section of the path would need to include retaining walls and switchbacks for the trail to zigzag down the hill.
The new plan is to connect the path from Blodgett Avenue to the recreation trail and continue along the trail to Fairview Street. From there, the path would cross Fairview Street and follow a currently unmaintained railroad bed to Prospect Street. This new proposed segment would cost around $700,000. The entire path expected to cost around $3.25 million.
Detrick said directing the bike path down Fairview Street was considered, but there are no sidewalks on the street and if a path were constructed, homeowners would lose some of their front lawns and parking spaces in front of their homes.
Another issue with Fairview Street is that path users traveling from Prospect Street toward Fairview would have to cross Prospect Street. There is a sharp corner there that Detrick said has very poor sight lines and could be a safety hazard.
City Manager Steven Mackenzie said Tuesday the right of way to a section of the unmaintained railroad bed is privately owned. He said it’s possibly the only piece of the former railroad line that’s not owned by the city and that the city would have to buy the piece back if the owner was willing to sell.
Mackenzie said the city would be meeting with the owners of that section of the rail bed within the next month.
Detrick said there was some discussion last year about connecting the bike path to Ayers Street, but he said that option is “probably not in the mix anymore.” No reason was given for dropping it.
Councilor Lucas Herring asked Detrick if it would be possible to avoid building a bridge near the granite museum, as the plan calls for, saying bridges will be the most expensive parts of the path to maintain and are costly to build. Herring suggested continuing the path up Route 302 and using the existing bridge on Willey Street.
Detrick said he would look into it but suggested that Route 302 and the Winooski River are close together in that area, which would make it hard to build a path in between. Councilor Charles Dindo said he wanted to avoid “throwing” path users onto Route 302, which is heavily traveled.
Detrick said the plan for the bike path is still being finalized and there could be further changes.
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