Grant sought for Depot Street study

MANCHESTER- The Manchester selectboard voted unanimously on Tuesday. Sept, 18 to apply for a grant through the Vermont Department of Economic Housing and Community Development for a corridor study of Depot Street, from the junction to Highland Avenue, to better improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety. The application for the grant is due at the end of the week.

"The next step is to apply for a relatively small planning grant and see what it might cost to get some fresh numbers on this project," said Lee Krohn, Manchester Planning Commissioner. "The grants can be up to $15,000, if you apply for more than $8,000 there is a cash match required by the town, I don't think we will even be applying for $8,000."

The deadline for the application is due Sept. 28 at noon.

Roughly 40 grants per year, for a total of approximately $400,000, are given out state-wide with funds being allocated to 11 different regions, in other terms Manchester has to prove they need the grant. The criteria for receiving a planning grant are given a point system and include realistic work plan and budget, a link to the town plan, citizen participation and statewide priorities.

Nearly ten years ago, the cost estimate, which was not done by an engineer at the time, was roughly $330,000. The voting process now allows the planning commission to take the next step in the process.

The project, only in the preliminary stages of getting approval, will provide a safer environment along Depot Street. Currently, the street is set-up the same way it was approved in 1987 when the former two-lane Depot Street was changed to three lanes to help improve the flow of traffic.

Although the idea seemed good at the time there have been complications that have risen from the project, Krohn said.

"It had the unintended consequence of taking a downtown street and turning it into a highway. It's three lanes and 40-plus feet wide, it looks like a highway and everyone drives fast. It's not comfortable to pedestrians and safety is an issue," said Krohn.

In a town accident analysis between the years from 1992 to 200, a total of 46 accidents were reported, none involved fatalities, 16 involved personal injuries and 30 were property damage only.

The traffic related issues also involve congestion of traffic, excess travel speeds, parking, pedestrian accommodations, bicycle accommodations and a lack of a village street landscape.

The goals of the project are as follows is to determine the feasibility of previous design concepts and ideas as well as identify new ones, encourage slower vehicle speeds, encourage pedestrian travel and a "Park & Walk" program, promote a 'Village' character and reduce influences which create a strip development environment, increase pedestrian and vehicular safety, reduce traffic congestion at key intersections, and provide visual enhancements to the neighborhood, according to the project description.

Key intersections of the study include Center Hill Road and Richville Road along with the Manchester Shopping Center. High volumes of vehicles at these locations create a less than adequate level of service. The thought process is to add curbing to the existing road to help with traffic flow.

"It's not a bad corridor, but we know it could be so much nicer," Krohn said. "We still want make sure that traffic can flow reasonably smooth but redesign it so it works better for humans."

In addition to improving Depot Street the study also has a plan to move the electrical substation at the bottom of Center Hill Road and infuse it will another electrical substation a few hundred feet away located behind what is currently Earth & Sea.

This would add a much more pedestrian friendly environment to the area, said Krohn.

"The planning commission landed on a concept they thought would be really workable. It has been on the capital budget, which is a five or six year look into the future for sometime now, but it's always pushed to the last year for a variety of good reasons including the roundabout. We had to get the roundabout done first. It just seems like a really good time to revisit this project," Krohn said.

It still might take years to get this project underway, Krohn said.


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