BARRE — It is considerably less expensive than a previously explored alternative, but a plan to link two isolated sections of Barre bike path would still be a $1.2 million proposition.
That’s the upshot of a newly completed feasibility study that was presented to members of the city’s Paths, Routes and Trails Committee on Wednesday.
Eager to connect two recently constructed sections of bike path – one on Smith Street and the other on Enterprise Alley – the committee had asked its consultant to explore a more economical option than one it had previously considered.
Among other things, that option would have required incurring the cost of constructing a new bridge over the Stevens Branch of the Winooski River and acceding to the expensive demands associated with using property controlled by Washington County Railroad.
The prohibitive price tag prompted the committee to ask its consultant, John Benson of DuBois & King Inc., to explore what it viewed as a less daunting more doable alternative for creating the desired link.
It isn’t optimal, won’t be cheap, and could provoke push back based on a proposed change in traffic patterns on two city streets, but committee members were told developing a path on Blackwell, Center, River and Granite streets could create the seamless connection they are looking for between the segment of path on Smith Street and the one on Enterprise Alley.
The alternative recommended by DuBois and King calls for widening the sidewalk on Blackwell Street to accommodate and eight-foot-wide path with a four foot buffer to pick up where the Smith Street segment ends.
That, the committee was told, would extend the path 315 feet at an estimated cost of $110,000. It would also establish a connection that would enable the city to explore a low-cost option of creating a generous path on Center Street by turning it into a one-way street between Blackwell and George Streets.
The one-way configuration would allow the city to use part of the road as a path without actually constructing one on that 585-foot stretch of road. The city would want to make a modest invest in planters, bollards and paint to delineate the path during what could be pitched as a demonstration project.
The preliminary proposal contemplates construction of 600-foot section of off-road path on Center Street between George and River Streets at an estimated cost of $250,000.
From there the plan would be to convert River Street into a one-way street and develop an on-road path that would extend to Granite Street.
Widening the sidewalk on the Granite Street Bridge to accommodate a 10-foot path at an estimated cost of $460,000 is an expense the committee was told could be avoided if cyclists were instructed to walk their bikes across that short span.
The last leg of the conceptual path would involve widening the southern sidewalk on Granite street to accommodate a 10 foot path that would run from the bridge and tie into the segment on Enterprise Alley.
John Benson, of DuBois & King, said ditching the bridge upgrade could be a cost-saving option and additional money could be saved if the city can persuade a private landowner to allow the path to cross his property essentially negating those portions of the path on Blackwell and Center streets.
However, Benson recommended against constructing the connector path in phases.
“If you do it in small segments the path leads to nowhere,” he said, noting the proposal would provide “a lot of connectivity” while limiting construction costs.
City Manager Steve Mackenzie said the study answered an important question.
“Theoretically, you can get from one end to the other,” he said.
Mackenzie acknowledged the alignment could change if soon-to-be-renewed conversations with the private property owner are more fruitful than they have been in the past, but it was useful for the committee to know there was a way to “get from here to there.”
“It gives us something to chew on,” he said.
The committee has time to chew. The plans presented by Benson were preliminary and while filling in the gap between Smith Street and Enterprise Alley are on its to do list the next section of path is now being designed and is expected to be constructed next summer.
That portion of the path will extend from Enterprise Alley out Metro Way to Prospect Street. Mackenzie said funding for the work is in hand.