New grant revives Wilton’s pedestrian bridge project
A longstanding plan to connect the Wilton train station with Wilton Town Center may finally see the light of day.
The town of Wilton has received verbal and email confirmation from the Department of Transportation (DOT) that the town was awarded a grant for a little more than $1.4 million to fund construction for the project and enhancements to the trail into Wilton Center.
The town is now waiting for the written award notice, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice told the Board of Selectmen at its meeting on Oct. 7.
“Once notice is received, the town will put the project out to bid. Once bids are received, they will be presented to the Board of Selectmen for a decision as to whether to move forward,” Vanderslice said.
In her recent candidate statement in The Bulletin, Vanderslice said constructing a pedestrian bridge from the train station to Wilton Center would “facilitate mixed-use development around the train, and residential density around the Center to ensure economic vitality within the Center.”
Currently, to get from the train station to Wilton Center (a distance of only about 500 feet), pedestrians must walk nearly a mile along steeply sloped roadways and a heavily traveled section of Route 7.
The project has suffered a number of delays and setbacks for more than a decade.
The town has actively pursued the building of the bridge since 2007. After three failed attempts to obtain state grants for the construction, in 2014, the town successfully procured a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance (STEAP) grant for the project.
But the project was delayed after it was buried in red tape going through the state and federal permit process.
Then in 2017, nearly a month after clearing the permits, the town decided to table the project after receiving just a single bid on it — at nearly $1.2 million — more than double the amount allotted for the project.
The project was then postponed until it received sufficient funding.
“Following that bid, a reassessment occurred as to whether we should continue to pursue the project,” Vanderslice said. “It was determined the project was worth pursuing because of the potential economic development impact for the area around the train station and Wilton Center. The Commonfund building at the train station has a high rate of vacancy and has been on and off the market. Developers, who have spoken with me about the building, have viewed the bridge as critical to future development,” she said.
The town spent approximately $140,000 in 2017 for plans and completion of the permit process, according to Vanderslice. When the new grant is in place, she said the town would return the unused proceeds of the original grant.
The town owns 3.5 acres of undeveloped land on Station Road and Vanderslice said the bridge would enhance the value of that land.
“During the POCD (Plan of Conservation and Development) meetings, it was discussed that although you can walk from the train station up to Route 33 and then into the Center, that walk is on a narrow sidewalk next to a high-traffic area and found undesirable by residents and employees in the Commonfund building. The pedestrian bridge will encourage that foot traffic and thus act as an incentive for appropriate development in the Center and/or around the train station,” she said.
Once the town receives written notice for the new grant, Vanderslice said the town will put the project out to bid, expecting more competitive bidding than previously occurred.
Pat Tomlinson contributed to this story.