ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors on Monday accepted a grant from the Maine Department of Transportation that will fund construction of sidewalks as part of the state’s “Quality Community-Safe Route to School” program.
In accepting the $88,000 grant, the councilors also authorized $22,000 in matching funds from the city’s local roads account for a total project amount of $110,000. The city funds will be used for engineering design and construction oversight on the project.
The grant will enable the city to construct sidewalks on portions of Pond Avenue, Oak Street and Davis Street as part of the city’s effort to improve existing sidewalks and construct new ones, according to City Manager Michelle Beal.
The city applied for the funds about a year ago, Beal said. The project has two parts, she said. The sidewalk on Pond Avenue was conceived in conjunction with the construction of the new elementary-junior high school. One of the entrances to the school is off Pond Avenue, which was reconstructed this year.
“We wanted to connect the new school with the Y and the Knowlton School Park,” Beal said.
The other portion of the project will extend sidewalks on Oak Street, which were constructed as part of the Fork-in-the-Road project several years ago in order to connect with a new sidewalk on Davis Street. According to Beal, the Davis Street sidewalk will connect with a planned Rail-Trail, shared-use path along the nearby rail line on one end and to Fifth Street, where youngsters will be able to walk to the new Pond Street sidewalk.
“This will provide a safe walking area for kids in that area, and it will go up to where the trail area is going to be,” she said.
The “safe route” project is part of a wider city effort to repair, maintain and construct sidewalks throughout the urban area. Much of the construction will be done in connection with planned road and development projects, Beal said. And the city’s Planning Department is working with the Bicycle-Pedestrian (Bike-Ped) Com-mittee to develop priorities for repairing and upgrading existing sidewalks.
In some areas, existing sidewalks have “disappeared,” and will need to be considered new construction, she said.
According to Beal, the school department is working on plans for sidewalks near the new school on Forest Avenue. Plans to extend Forest Avenue across Oak Street also would involve expanding sidewalks to the high school, she said.
The city could not expend funds for the design of the project until state funds had been appropriated, Beal said, so engineering design work will begin soon with construction scheduled to begin in the spring.