Essex Junction Considers Street Project

Tue August 26, 2003 - National Edition

ESSEX JUNCTION (AP) Village officials are hoping that converting a downtown street from an “asphalt landing strip” to a bucolic boulevard will attract businesses and customers.

Village trustees have approved a plan to overhaul Railroad Avenue, one of the main drags through the historic downtown. Planners expect to begin accepting bids for the construction project within several weeks and hope to complete the work this fall, said Village Manager Charles Safford.

The village center is a place that’s changing and in search of its own niche, Safford said. He hopes revitalizing Railroad Avenue is a step toward reviving the downtown.

“We need to attract people back into our downtown and give them something worth stopping for,” he said. “We want to restore our downtown’s sense of place.”

Plans call for narrowing the street, to reduce the amount of asphalt and to slow traffic that often speeds through the area; widening the sidewalk, which runs past businesses on the west side of the avenue; widening a tiny strip of grass that runs along the railroad tracks on the east side of the road; and adding new lighting, especially in the gas-lamp style that lines the west side.

“Right now a lot of the street is just taken up with asphalt,” Safford said. “It’s an asphalt landing strip.”

The Railroad Avenue plans are part of several recent initiatives to boost the downtown. Work is nearly finished on repairing the downtown Amtrak station and bus stop.

During August, the direction of travel will be reversed on one-way Ivy Lane. Also, village officials are considering applying to become part of a special state program for downtowns.

“If we enhance the public sector,” Safford said, “maybe the private sector will be enhanced, as well.”