MONTPELIER — The proposed bike path in Montpelier has come in at a steep cost and will now move out toward East Montpelier rather than Berlin, since the path can no longer follow the old railbeds.
Around 15 people filed into the City Council chambers in City Hall Wednesday night for a forum on the new path.
Mayor John Hollar said the city is working on rights of way, easements and permits for the path. He said he expects plans to be finalized in the spring, with construction starting in late 2014 and completed in 2015.
Evan Detrick of DuBois & King, the engineering consulting firm that’s overseeing the project, gave a 20-minute presentation of where the project is and what the plans are going forward. The path will start at the Granite Street bridge where it will continue to a shared use path to the Pioneer Street bridge. From there the path will follow Old County Club Road and then more shared use path to Gallison Hill Road. The path will then run along Gallison Hill Road to the Civic Center where it will connect to the Cross Vermont Trail.
The estimated cost of the two-mile path is around $3.45 million, which Detrick said is almost twice the cost of a typical shared use path which runs around $1 million per mile. The cost of the proposed path does not include right-of-way acquisition or inspection of the construction.
Eighty percent of the cost of the trail will be picked up by the federal government, with 10 percent each being paid for by the state and the city.
The major reason for the higher cost is because the trail originally was planned to be placed where the old rail line in Montpelier runs along the Winooski River, but in 2009 Vermont Railway said the trail had to be moved, as they had plans to rebuild the old railbed so the company could move granite blocks out of Barre. Detrick said the railroad could not use the current active rail line in Montpelier because it is in poor shape and the bridges the trains would have to cross with the granite would not support the weight.
Now the trail will be placed parallel to the railbed, when not on Gallison Hill and Old Country Club roads, which means constructing a trail from scratch that will need retaining walls which Detrick said are expensive. Adding to the cost, Detrick said the section of the proposed path near Barre and Granite streets will actually run along the active railroad so the city will have to move a part of the railroad off to the side.
Detrick said since the new trail will be within the railroad’s right-of-way, it has final say on the project and can veto it at any time. The railroad also told the city which retaining wall to use, which Detrick said are the most expensive cast-in-place concrete walls. That was a few years ago and Detrick said the city is going to approach the railroad again to see if a possible cheaper solution can be used instead.
The original plan was to have a bike path from Montpelier through Berlin and Barre City to Barre Town. But after the railroad pulled the plug on using the old railbed, no solution has been conceived.
Detrick, who also is consulting on the bike path currently being designed in Barre, said the Granite City is also having difficulty figuring out a way to build the path from the Granite Museum to Berlin.
It may only be a matter of time, however, until someone figures out a way to connect Barre and Montpelier. “Once this path gets built and things get built in Barre, there’s going to be more and more pressure to connect the two,” he said.
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