ESSEX – Persistent lobbying has paid off for residents of Heritage Cove in Essex. The town received a state grant this month to build a sidewalk along River Road that will connect the condominium complex and surrounding neighborhood to Main Street and Essex Village.
First Selectman Norm Needleman said residents of the condominiums have been pressing the town to extend sidewalks to their community for years, and that a $595,611 grant from the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Community Connectivity Grant Program is expected to cover most or all of the cost.
“They’ve tried to impress upon us how important the sidewalk would be, not only for them and a lot of people who live in the condominium complex, but for all the people who live north of Book Hill [Road] who walk on River Road, in the middle of the road,” Needleman said.
Needleman said Ellie Champion – who died on Feb. 1 – was one of the leading advocates for extending the sidewalk, and that she and other residents had been “working [the selectmen] over, in a pleasant way,” for several years to get the project done.
Extending sidewalks is a goal included in Essex’s strategic plan, but Needleman said he was initially resistant to the idea because he had no idea where the town would get the money to connect Heritage Cove with the existing sidewalk on the other side of Falls River.
The town applied for the connectivity grant to build the sidewalk, as well as for a federal grant to build the sidewalk and replace the River Road bridge over Falls River, Needleman said.
The connectivity grant application – which the town submitted about two years ago – included plans for a pedestrian bridge over the Falls River, running alongside the River Road Bridge, Needleman said. But the River Road bridge still needs to be replaced, and Needleman said the town is going to “aggressively develop” a plan to replace it with a wider bridge that will include a walking path.
“Any savings on that hopefully will compensate for the dramatic increase in the price of doing work over the last year-and-a-half or two years,” Needleman said.
Needleman said the bridge is on the Connecticut Department of Transportation list for the state and local bridge program, which provides a 50 percent reimbursement for towns to replace bridges. Needleman said that when the town does get funding for it, the plan is for a “rapid” replacement of the bridge that would be installed in two weeks.
“If that bridge gets closed for six months, the only way to service people north of there from a public safety point of view would be to go through Deep River, or more likely Deep River would have to cover that area,” Needleman said.
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