OLD SAYBROOK – A years-long effort to expand sidewalks to connect both ends of town received a major boost on Friday when the State Bond Commission approved $769,500 in funding towards a sidewalk project that will stretch along Boston Post Road to the Westbrook town line.
Work on the project, which will include new stretches of sidewalk and replace deteriorating old sections, is expected in 2023. When it’s completed, connected sidewalks along the Post Road will stretch from Westbrook on the west end of Old Saybrook to the train station on the east end, and down Main Street to Saybrook Point, Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna said.
“We’ll have perfect sidewalks from the Westbrook town line, all the way to the heart of downtown,” Fortuna said. “Kids will be able to walk safely to any school they want on our busiest streets. If you’re in a wheelchair, no problem. You’ll be able to go to the Big Y, get your food, and go home safely. So it’s a big deal.”
The newly-funded stretch of sidewalk is estimated to cost about $1.4 million in total – from the Dairy Queen near School House Road to the Westbrook town line. Fortuna said the town plans to apply for another state grant soon, and that the town will also pay for about 20-25 percent of the project cost. The sidewalk will not be built on both sides of the road, and will cross the road, Fortuna said.
Fortuna said the grant is the culmination of years of work to improve sidewalk access along Boston Post Road and Main Street – securing state grants to fund new stretches and using town surplus money to repair old sidewalks.
“It provides people in all those neighborhoods with new opportunities to walk, not just in their neighborhood for exercise, but to restaurants and shopping as that side of town really gets developed,” Fortuna said.
The newest stretch will be a boost to the Spencer Plain Road area, where there has been a wave of proposed developments in the past year – including a grocery store, a gas station and convenience store and drive-thru restaurants.
Fortuna said the sidewalk project and the car-dependent uses like drive-thru restaurants are compatible, because there are other businesses in the area that aren’t car-dependent – including possibly two supermarkets interested in opening near the existing Big Y.
And even the drive-thru restaurants will offer jobs that people without cars could use the new sidewalks to walk to – along with the other job opportunities around Spencer Plain Road. Fortuna said the project will also help connect residents of the eastern side of Westbrook who frequent the stores on Spencer Plain Road.
“Once everything is built, you will be able to essentially walk just about anywhere from the train station – to the water or to Westbrook,” Fortuna said.