PITTSFIELD — Upgrading sidewalks on Somerset Avenue and building a new one next to Vickery Elementary have been on the Town Council’s wish list for about two years.

Now the council is considering applying for grants to fund the projects.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, a Winterport engineering firm outlined what is needed to fix the deteriorating sidewalks and the timeline for getting the job done.

The projects will cost about $162,000, but two grants could pay for up to 100 percent of the cost, according to William Olver, owner of Olver Associates Inc.

The Maine Department of Transportation has a grant program that will pay for up to 80 percent of any project that will improve safety for pedestrians and bicycles, Olver said.

The other grant, Safe Routes to School, offers up to 100 percent funding for projects that encourage children to safely walk or ride bikes to school; provide features such as curb ramps to assist those with disabilities; and improve conditions for safe walking, such as crosswalks and signs. It is federally funded and administered through the state transportation department.

The 1,710-foot sidewalk on the north side of Somerset Avenue between Hartland Avenue and School Street has been deteriorating for years, Olver explained, which is not uncommon for a heavily used street.

“Some of the curbs have literally been pounded into the pavement,” Olver said. “But we can reuse some of the straight granite curb sections.”

Grant applications to repair uneven sidewalks usually earn high scores, Olver said, because the sidewalks hinder access for people with physical disabilities.

Currently, there is no sidewalk in front of Vickery Elementary School, so there is no way to “isolate students from buses and cars dropping them off or picking them up,” Olver explained. Plans call for a 260-foot sidewalk in front of the school with enough room to install bicycle racks at one end.

The engineering firm also recommended that the sidewalk near Warsaw Elementary School be extended by 15 feet and curve around a small visitor’s parking area.

“Right now, the sidewalk ends right behind parked cars,” Olver explained. “But we can’t extend it beyond the town’s right-of-way.”

Town Manager Kathryn Ruth cautioned councilors that competition for the grants the grant is intense and that any application filed this summer won’t be funded until the 2013 fiscal year.


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