Athol Selectboard OKs addition to Complete Streets project

  • Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith discusses at last week’s Selectboard meeting an addition to the town’s Complete Streets funding application. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

For Athol Daily News
Published: 3/23/2020 7:34:54 PM
Modified: 3/23/2020 7:34:50 PM

ATHOL – While the novel coronavirus may be slowing the operation of cities and town, the gears of municipal government have not yet ground to a halt. Following a public hearing, with very little public present, the Selectboard last week gave its blessing to an amendment to the Complete Streets project which the board approved last fall.

Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith explained to the board that the town is now eligible for up to $400,000 a year in Complete Streets funding which, he said, “is basically an add on to the Chapter 90 program.”

He said the Complete Streets funding would be used to improve safety in the neighborhood around Fish Park.

“Basically, we’d improving the crosswalks around the neighborhood of Fish Park,” said Smit. “And then we’d be improving the sidewalks around Union, Newton and Maple streets. It would be a complete sidewalk reconstruction, making them ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) you enter into the park. That would kind of mesh with our Walnut Street project.”

The reconstruction of Walnut Street, scheduled for 2021 and with an estimate cost of $870,000, will be paid for with Community Development Block Grant funds, as well as some town government monies.

Smith said the sidewalk project in the Fish Park neighborhood will cost about $330,000, paid for with Complete Streets funding.

“And we want to start addressing the Main Street area,” he said. “There are a whole bunch of ideas to do some more improved crosswalks. We’re working with the Downtown Vitality Committee to see if we can do some more Main Street streetscaping work. But in the short term, we’ve been hearing about speed concerns in the downtown.

“So, we’d like to be able to post some of those ‘your speed’ signs, with the speed limit, on each end or our downtown,” Smith continued. “One would go, as you’re coming west, at the Main Street Bridge over the Millers River. The one coming (east), we want to work with the DPW to see where that might go.”

One suggestion is coming down the hill on Main Street, prior to Chestnut Hill Avenue intersection.

“The quote we got to do those two signs would be $45,000,” said Smith. “So, it would be a $375,000 package we’d like to submit for (a Complete Streets) application, which is due by April 1.”

“On the map (given to the board) I noticed,” said board member William Chiasson, “that the area of Church and Walnut and around Fish Park is covered very nicely. But I do notice that the sidewalk on Union, from Main to Walnut, is not included. It seems like you’ve got that whole area covered, except that one little section of sidewalk. Is that an oversight?”

Assistant Public Works Director Richard Kilhart explained that area could be reconstructed with CDBG funds. “It’s all a matter of funding,” he said.

The vote to add the additional $45,000 to the Complete Streets application was unanimous.

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