Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Local News

Chester Sustainability Committee Surveying Opinion on New Infrastructure

The Chester Sustainability Committee, in collaboration with the Economic Development Commission (EDC), has released a survey to garner public opinion on possible new infrastructure developments and funding for pedestrian and bicyclists.

The survey, which is looking to garner the opinions of residents as young as 10 years old, contains questions and response options regarding resident’s age, favored activities in town including whether they jog or cycle on sidewalks or alongside town streets, and what infrastructure moves respondents think the town should take based on their preferred kind of mobility.

The survey’s deadline for responses is Friday, June 3, and can be found online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XNJHNF6, while paper copies can be located at the Chester Public Library.

“It’s about promoting wellness, safety, and creating infrastructure for now and future generations,” said Cindy Lignar, who sits on the committee and is the leading member of the Bike-Ped Path Planning group looking to lead projects.

Pending majority community support, the committee’s overall plan is to create a network of infrastructure to connect sidewalks, bike paths, neighborhoods, and neighboring towns, including Deep River and East Haddam. If supported by the majority of respondents, the new infrastructure would be a continuation of the town’s Main Street Master Plan, which was completed June 2013.

The master plan supported the extending of interconnected sidewalks to increase the mobility of residents by biking or foot, and with the survey, Lignar is looking to see if town residents are in favor of going further with those infrastructure developments, particularly for those that have not yet been accomplished.

According to Lignar, the EDC’s involvement is crucial when considering the economic benefits that possible infrastructure developments can bring for the town.

“They know that if we create this infrastructure, that it will be supportive of the businesses downtown, because we believe it will bring more people downtown,” said Lignar. “We already have many tourists that come to downtown Chester, for a variety of reasons. We would like to expand outward from the village center.”

One of the possible developments that may take place is the creation of a 30-mile pedestrian and cycling loop that will extend into Chester, an effort that would be led by the East Haddam Economic Development Commission.

“That would actually cover some of the area we want to cover, which is a bike and pedestrian path from the Chester Ferry up to Chester Center, past Moravela’s, onto Water Street, right into the center of town,” said Lingar.

Lingar, the rest of the committee and the town’s EDC are all in full support of the infrastructure. The committee will meet with representatives from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program on Thursday, June 2 for a preliminary discussion on assistance and recommendations for the trans-town loop.

The committee is also in support of connecting a new bike path from Water Street to Route 154, ending up at Main Street, and connecting walkways to those in Deep River.

Talk of possible developments and the accompanying survey came after the town was awarded a Bronze certification from Sustainable CT in November 2021. Lignar joined the committee last year to help the group achieve the Bronze certification. The certification compels the committee to take on the action of developing “Clean and Diverse Transportation Systems and Choices,” which includes the implementation of a “Complete Streets” strategy to provide inclusive and safer mobility and access to all users of roadways.

The content of the survey relates to the committee’s similar goals of the recently completed Bike-Ped Plan by Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (RiverCOG), a group with which the committee aligned on possible future projects.

Similar to the committee, the RiverCOG’s specific plans for Chester deal with solving issues regarding bicycle and pedestrian path infrastructure, sidewalk development and repair, and crosswalk analysis. Taking into consideration the similarities between the plans of both groups, the committee decided to publish its survey to ask residents how issues should be solved, and new infrastructure should be constructed.

While the committee is currently garnering responses, new infrastructure projects it’s looking to pursue currently have support from First Selectman Charlene Janecek and State Representative Christine Palm (D-36) in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) may be used for the part of the funding of supported projects, as well as other federally delivered funds, according to Lignar.

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