Brookline, feds pave way for sidewalks

BROOKLINE – The town will be getting a mile of new sidewalk next year thanks to a federal Transportation Enhancement grant and a selectmen chairman who has been tenacious in staying on top of the application process.

“The town has been very proactive,” Tom Jameson, the project manager at the state Department of Transportation who is working with the town, said.

Jameson said the town will be sharing in $6 million in federal money available for road and sidewalk projects over a two-year period.

Applicants were ranked, based on recommendations from regional planning commissions across the state, Jameson said, and there is also a “reserve” list of candidates who would be called if any of the first tier recipients dropped out.

Brookline was at the top of the reserve list, the DOT official said, and was notified of the grant after the town of Plymouth withdrew from the competition.

“It’s not an imminent project but it will be very valuable for young cyclists and others using the road where traffic has increased more than 50 percent in the past five years,” Selectmen Chairman Tad Putney said Wednesday, following the meeting in Concord with DOT officials.

For the past two years, Putney has been tireless in his pursuit of government funds available to make improvements to the town’s infrastructure. Last year, with money from a Safe Routes to School grant, the town was able to pave a combined total of 1,500 feet of sidewalk outside the town’s two elementary schools.

The Transportation Enhancement grant announced this week will allow the town to build a mile-long stretch of sidewalk on Route 130, through the town’s center.

The area to be paved runs from Austin Road to the town’s safety complex and post office on State Route 130, near State Route 13, and from the intersection of Main and Elm streets to South Main, near the cemetery, going in the opposite direction.

Voters at the 2009 Town Meeting agreed to spend $89,000 to pay for 20 percent of the $447,000 project. The grant picks up the remainder.

Putney said the sidewalk will not only improve access and safety for pedestrians and cyclists, but also will reinforce what many consider to be the town’s downtown.

“If you ask five different residents of Brookline to define the town’s center, you’ll get five different answers,” Putney said, adding that the planned sidewalk “provides more definition” of what comprises the center.

Residents shouldn’t expect to see the sidewalk until the summer of 2013, however.

Putney said the process will begin with what is called QBS, a Qualifications-Based Selection process where engineers submit their qualifications. Afterwards, the town plans to solicit bids from the qualified companies and make a hiring decision. The actual construction of the sidewalk would take place in the summer of 2013, the board chairman said.

Putney said he expects a positive response to the sidewalk, once it’s completed.

“I have been amazed to see the increase in use of sidewalks along Route 130 since the completion of the recent construction,” he said. “It’s another example of ‘Build it and it will be used.’”

Jameson, the DOT official, praised Putney, and the town, for going after the federal grant.

“They’ve been right on the ball,” Jameson said.

Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24 or hbernstein@cabinet.com.