Vt. Towns Plan For More Bicycle And Walking Paths

08/18/12 8:35AM Young, Meg
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AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan
This summer, many Vermont towns have made plans to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly -- with help from the Agency of Transportation.

Through the end of the month, the agency is accepting applications to its "bicycle and pedestrian program."

Under the program, the state allocates up to $2 million in federal money toward projects to expand bicycle and pedestrian accessibility.

Program Manager Jon Kaplan says that the program is accepting applications for a wide range of projects, as long as they are consistent with the program's goals.

"We're fairly open minded from bike lanes right on the road to a sidewalk that accesses from a neighborhood to a downtown or a neighborhood to a school, and we really like to see connections to origins and destinations and if possible if there is public transit in the area, some connection to public transit, that type of thing," Kaplan says.

Kaplan says the program is an opportunity for towns expand their infrastructure without breaking their budgets.

Towns are required to match the money they get if their project proposal is accepted. But around eighty percent will be paid by the federal government. State and local sources pay the rest.

And Nancy Shulz of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition says there are many advantages of building trails and paths.

"If you look to just about any path in the state you'll see patterns of heavy usage and they tend to be economic engines," Shulz says. "For every dollar that Vermont invests in bicycling and walking the return is $2.87, and that's a conservative estimate, so there are definitely many reasons to go ahead with a project such as that."

The state has $2 million to distribute in the current round of funding - enough to pay for five to seven projects.

But advocates say Vermont still has a long way to go.

According to a poll of regional planning commissions conducted by Kaplan's office, there are about $100 million worth of potential projects around the state.

And the League of American Bicyclists says Vermont is only ranked eighteenth in the nation for bicycle accessibility.

Kaplan says he hopes that continued support from the Shumlin administration and the federal government will enable Vermont to become a better and better place to bike.

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