PLAINFIELD — Either way, the town is on the hook for a bill in the six figures, but town officials want feedback from citizens on whether to go forward with a pedestrian bridge project.
If so, they also want to know whether they should shut down access to the lower village from Route 2 for two weeks to do the project in order to save money.
At its regular Monday meeting, the Plainfield Select Board discussed the pedestrian bridge that has been in the works for years.
The plan is to install sidewalk on a small portion of Mill Street in the village where it connects with Main Street, and continuing up Main Street to the bridge that crosses the Winooski River. The plan also calls for more new sidewalk on Route 2 from the bridge to an Agency of Transportation-approved crosswalk in front of Town Hall.
Officials have said this plan will make walking in that part of town easier and safer.
The project would widen the concrete bridge so that a 5-foot-wide walkway can be installed there.
The project hit a significant snag earlier this year when it was sent out to bid and it was discovered the bridge work would cost more than the town had available.
The town currently has $589,200 in grant funding for the project from state and federal governments which includes the town’s match of $78,540 for those grants. One of the bids the town received was more than $700,000 and the other was around $900,000.
Plainfield already has spent around $100,000 of the grant funds on engineering for the project and another $60,000 needs to go toward other costs such as inspections. So the town really only has around $400,000 to spend on construction and the bids came in at about double that.
If the town decides to walk away from the project, it would be on the hook for the $100,000 already spent.
Board member Tammy Farnham said she’s working to get the project back out to bid. The town has hired the Dufresne Group for project engineering for and Farnham said she’s been talking with Andrea Day, an engineer at the company, about trying to find ways to save money.
One of the big costs for the project is traffic control. The current plan calls for shutting down one lane of the bridge for the work to be completed, so flaggers would be needed. The cost for that is $150,000.
Farnham said the town could cut much of that cost by shutting the bridge down completely for two weeks.
That’s not a popular idea. The town is working with the state on a fix for the intersection at Route 2 and Main Street. The state has proposed shutting down the bridge for a few months for that work to be completed.
Business owners in the lower village opposed shutting down the bridge, as did rescue personnel because the fire department is in the lower village so fire and rescue crews wouldn’t have easy access to the upper village if there were an emergency.
Board member Jim Volz said he wanted to hear from Fire Chief Greg Light before making a decision about closing off the bridge. Farnham said she wanted feedback from residents as well before making such a decision.
Farnham said the bid could be structured so that there would be incentives for the construction company to complete the work sooner. That way the bridge wouldn’t have to be shut down for the entire two-week period.
The town will need to apply for more grants to cover the increased cost for the project. Farnham said even if they are able to shave off $200,000 from the project, it’s still over budget and any grant the town gets would need a 20% match.
Farnham joined the board in 2018 when the project was already well underway.
“I’ve found this project a little bit difficult because I don’t know that I would have initially voted for the pedestrian bridge. So now we’re at a position where we’re trying to make decisions on, you know, something that feels like maybe we should have stopped and looked at things. But you can look at yesterday all day long, it’s not going to get us where we need to be,” she said.
The board decided to hold a special Aug. 4 meeting via Zoom to talk to residents about the project and get feedback.