With Transportation Enhancement Funds, Communities Can Create Smarter Options

Three separate communities in Vermont recently planned new pedestrian and bicycle connections thanks to federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) funds and are ready to move forward with several projects:

The Town of Shelburne, Vermont used TE funds to find the most appropriate means of linking two existing sidewalks on either side of a narrow bridge on a curve at the bottom of a hill. The grant funds sponsored several local public work sessions where the community helped develop the best alternative for a long-term link. They also developed a short term fix that could improve conditions for bicyclists and walkers now by widening the paved shoulders, narrowing the motor vehicle travel lanes, and adding a painted pedestrian space. The new space allows pedestrians to walk in the grass away from the paved travel way after they leave the sidewalk. Long term, a separate pedestrian bridge is planned. The improvements are going to greatly increase the safety and sense of security of pedestrians and bicyclists as they pass through this existing difficult area.

The Village of North Bennington, Vermont has been working for the last few years to increase business activity in its village center. Several new restaurants and other business are now located there, and pedestrian activity is increasing, but the existing sidewalk system, where it exists is old, often uneven and narrow.

The Village used TE funds to examine the entire village center as well as several adjacent streets to determine what improvements are needed to create better walking and bicycling conditions. The resulting plan identifies several projects that the Village can pursue independently to work towards a unified, well-constructed pedestrian and bicycle system extending outward from the core to the village grade school. The Village is getting ready to pursue the development of one of the first recommendations. The improvements planned through the enhancement grant will help maintain and even increase the economic growth now beginning in North Bennington.

The Town of Fairfield, Vermont is finishing up the study of its two village centers to identify the best ways to improve bicycling and walking conditions there. In one area, Fairfield Center, the community identified locations for new sidewalks, paths, wider paved shoulders, crosswalks and pedestrian zones as well as a few locations where minor work on the roadway surface could greatly increase safety conditions for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Together, the improvements will make it much easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to move between the Fairfield Center School, the library, the local markets, the ball fields, and local residences. The Town officials and residents hope that in addition to fostering more active lives, the improvements will also help to reduce the number of motor vehicle trips between these closely-spaced destinations.

In East Fairfield, the recommended improvements include the extension of an existing sidewalk, the conversion of a wide paved parallel parking strip along the side of the road to a sidewalk and narrower parking area, wider shoulders on low volume roads, and the addition of shared lane markings through the middle of the village area. The Town anticipates similar improvements in pedestrian activity between the community center, a church, the post office, the stores and local residents. They want to provide easy pedestrian and bicycle access to the village center from the future rail trail now being designed.

This guest post is by Jim Donovan, FASLA, Broadreach Planning & Design, Charlotte, Vermont.

This is the third in a series of guest posts by landscape architects across the country who use federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) funding to design projects that improve their communities and create jobs. This series illustrates how landscape architects help create the active transportation infrastructure  that cities and towns across the country  are demanding. Current legislative proposals would eliminate dedicated funding for the TE program. Use the ASLA Advocacy Network to let Congress know that walkable, bikeable communities are a priority in your community.

Image credits:  Jim Donovan

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