By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — The town of Bristol is getting nearly $250,000 in federal funds for improvements to the road, sidewalk, streets and pedestrian walkways in the village center, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced Thursday.
“We’re really pleased to get this money,” said Bristol town administrator Bill Bryant. “These funds will help implement some of the physical improvements that have been planned for several years as part of an effort to maintain the downtown's vitality,” he added.
Bristol selectmen aren’t sure yet what specifically the money will be used for, according to Selectwoman Carol Wells. The selectboard has a number of projects it would like to address in the downtown area when time and money become available.
“We’re getting prices for some of the different plans we have,” said Wells, who is also a founding member of the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership, a nonprofit group devoted to improvements in Bristol downtown.
Those projects may include adding trees, a grassy area, footpaths, curbs and sidewalks to Prince Lane between Brooks Pharmacy, Shaw’s Supermarket and the back of the Main Street businesses. The town may also add curbs to the Brooks Pharmacy parking lot or the corner of the town green near the playground equipment or new lights to the town green.
An estimate made in 2007 for the Prince Lane project alone was about $400,000, so the town would have to seek grants from other sources to support the rest of the work.
According to Bryant, the total earmark is about $241,000. It comes as part of a federal transportation appropriation approved by Congress and signed by the president in December. Bryant and Wells weren’t sure yet exactly when and how the town could access it. However, Bryant said it would probably come in the form of reimbursement rather than a check up front, and Wells said the money would be available in the current year.
Leahy said that the infrastructure improvements would make a big difference to the town.
“Downtown Bristol links and unites Vermonters living in Addison County,” he said in the press release. “As traffic on Route 116 increases, it is important to ensure that the village remains functional and safe — and the town of Bristol is committed to making sure any improvements only add to the character of Bristol.”
The Prince Lane plan was one of the first projects mentioned by both Wells and Bryant, but neither was sure how the money would be used.
“We have a very long wish list,” Wells said.