Town takes first step toward MVU sidewalk

Swanton is seeking funding to extend sidewalks toward Missisquoi Valley Union High School. (TOM BENTON, Messenger Staff)

SWANTON — Within the next few years, Missisquoi Valley Union (MVU) school students could be walking safer into the village, navigating truck and interstate traffic on a sidewalk rather than the roadside.

The town selectboard formally agreed to apply for a Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) grant that could fund the design and construction of a long-discussed sidewalk from First Street, near McDonald’s, to MVU.

The St. Albans-based engineering firm Cross Consulting already produced a scoping study for the town, outlining possibilities and obstacles in creating the sidewalk. Cross Consulting completed its study in 2016, but the board hasn’t moved on the project due to prior financial obligations and priorities.

Elisabeth Nance, the community’s economic development coordinator, said the topic arose again in April during discussions about replacing MVU’s waterline. Nance said she looked into the possibility of timing the sidewalk project with the waterline replacement, since the waterline runs beneath the proposed sidewalk, but that coordinating the projects didn’t work out, time-wise.

“It’s always been in mind,” Nance said. “We need to have the conversation now for budgeting purposes.”

The grant in question comes through VTrans’ Bicycle and Pedestrian Program, which, just as it sounds, funds safety improvements for bike and pedestrian traffic. It’s a four-year grant using federal funds.

Cross Consulting estimated the project’s total cost would be $933,404, including contingency funds, or about $811,000 without. If awarded this grant funding, the town will be responsible for 20 percent of that total cost.

The grant’s application deadline isn’t until June 2019. In resolving to apply for the grant now, the town selectboard can budget to begin covering its matching cost in the 2019 budgets the board is now crafting.

For more on a proposed sidewalk expansion, check out this weekend’s Messenger or subscribe to our online edition.

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