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Manchester gets $580K to improve busy road


As seen in the Rutland Herald:

MANCHESTER — Manchester will receive a grant of $580,000 from the Vermont Agency of Transportation to enhance Depot Street and make it more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.

The final design of the project has not been completed (the grant helps to pay for the final design), but the intent is to work on Depot Street, the town’s busiest road, from the village green, which is adjacent to the new roundabout, and east to the intersection with Center Hill Road.

The width of the existing travel lanes will be reduced from 14 feet to a width of 10 to 12 feet. Bicycle lanes, five feet wide, will be added to either side of the road and pedestrian islands will be added to the center of the road.

Town Manager John O’Keefe said the lanes on Depot Street are already wider than the required width for interstate freeways, which must be 12 feet wide. Reducing the width and adding the pedestrian islands is expected to have a calming effect on traffic.

The islands are also expected to make the road safer for pedestrians because they will provide a safe place for people to stop and wait if one lane of traffic is clear but not the other.

O’Keefe pointed out that all of the renovations that benefit bicyclists and pedestrians must be balanced out with the need to keep traffic flowing smoothly, since Depot Street is still a state highway and the access to the town for people who are using Route 7, which has exits that take drivers to Depot Street.

Other amenities like new benches, trees and other plantings, street lights and bicycle racks would be added, and a short portion of sewer would be renovated.

Like some of the other road projects being planned in Manchester, the Depot Street improvements are intended to meet a goal set during the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s community visit in 2013. One of the goals identified by Manchester residents during the visit was improvement to the town’s bicycle infrastructure for both its residents and the tourists who visit Manchester.

The Depot Street project will not add new roads and all of the renovations are expected to be within the specifications of the town’s existing road and sidewalk.

Longtime Manchester residents may remember a major renovation of Depot Street about 30 years ago, but O’Keefe said this project, which is not expected to reach the construction phase until 2017, will not be as extensive.

The $580,000 budget includes a 10 percent match from the town that could come from in-kind contributions, such as management of the project.

Pauline Moore, Manchester’s economic development coordinator, said the town had applied for $800,000 in state funding, but indicated in its request they could accomplish a version of the project for $580,000. The town was told about the grant on Sept. 18.

Now that the town has been awarded money, a committee will be meeting to help create the final design of the project. O’Keefe said members will include local business owners, an architect, town employees, members of the town’s Biking Center and Destination Task Force, which was created after the community visit, Manchester’s Director of Public Works Jeff Williams and Manchester Fire Chief Philip “Grub” Bourn.

The first meeting will be Thursday. Those committee meetings will be public meetings and open to anyone who wants to attend.

O’Keefe said the first meeting will start with a site visit of Depot Street, near the roundabout, before moving to the pool house in the Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park.

The main difference between the original project and the reduced project is that it will not reach as far east as r.k. Miles Lumber.

Moore, Zoning Administrator Janet Hurley and Town Engineer Christina Haskins, with O’Keefe, wrote the application for the grant.