December 26, 2012

Sandy River footbridge talks get new life in Farmington

Town would need to find about $330,000 of $1.65 million project to link Jay-Farmington Rail Trail to downtown

By Kaitlin Schroeder
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON -- Efforts to build a pedestrian bridge over the Sandy River that would connect the Jay-Farmington Rail Trail to downtown may be renewed.

Eaton Peabody Consulting Group recommends the town revive the effort to fund the bridge, which is estimated to cost $1.65 million, with the goal of building it in 2014.

Five years ago, a group of five residents led the original effort, Town Manager Richard Davis said. They raised $12,000 matched with $48,000 from the Department of Conservation to hire Louis Berger Group to draw up preliminary designs and estimate the cost.

Davis said the group was discouraged by the steep estimated cost provided by the engineering study and the effort lost momentum.

"It's a lot of money to raise. If there is going to be a renewed fundraising effort, it would take some new energy," he said.

Consultant John Holden said the bridge would benefit the development plan's goal of promoting the downtown by connecting downtown businesses with West Farmington.

Davis said the town is interested in building the bridge because it would be an economic advantage to better connect people and businesses. The bridge would be open to foot traffic, as well as bicycles.

"There is definitely still a need for the bridge. It would be a great economic development tool," Davis said.

The town would need to have $330,000 in available money to file for federal and state financial help in building the bridge, according to the current draft of the development plan.

The consulting group also recommended the town form a new tax district to help fund the development plan's infrastructure program.

The Sandy River bridge was part of a list of infrastructure improvements recommended by the consulting group. Other recommendations included downtown public restrooms, a parking structure, new streetlights and improved sidewalks.

Davis said the selectmen will consider the recommendations made in the development plan after they adopt the final draft, which Holden said he hopes to present at the next selectmen meeting.

Kaitlin Schroeder-- 861-9252


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