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Groton awarded state grant to extend the Trolley Trail

Groton — The town of Groton was awarded a $344,705 state grant to extend the G&S Trolley Trail and provide more opportunities for people to bike in the Poquonnock Bridge section of town.

The grant will allow the Town of Groton to extend the path to provide a safe connection to Sutton Park and Route 1. Currently, the multi-use path is accessible from Bluff Point State Park and Haley Farm State Park to Knoxville Court, according to the Groton Parks and Recreation Department.

"We're really excited about the project," Town Manager John Burt said. "We're committed to expanding nonmotorized transportation wherever possible. Parks and Rec, Planning, and Public Works all collaborated on this and did a fantastic job."

Burt said 43 municipalities applied for funding under the state's Community Connectivity Grant Program and Groton was one of only 10 whose projects were funded.

The program "provides construction funding for local initiatives that will improve safety and accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians in and around community centers, encouraging more people to use these healthy and environmentally sustainable modes of travel," according to a news release from Gov. Ned Lamont's office. "The grant program also facilitates social and economic opportunities for underserved communities by providing equitable levels of access to safe and affordable transportation."

Specifically, the town is proposing to create a safe, on-road bike path using shared lane markings, or "sharrows," from Knoxville Court and running along Midway Oval to the right of way at Sutton Park, according to the application. A bike path, winding around the park, then will connect to an existing multi-use path on Route 1, as well as to the sidewalk by the entrance to Ella T. Grasso Technical High School, Parks and Recreation Director Mark Berry said.

He said the town plans to add solar-powered lights to the Sutton Park portion in response to feedback, received as part of a community needs assessment, from residents who said they would use the parks more frequently if there were more lighting. The connection at Sutton Park also will create a safer way for kids to get around in an area they frequently travel.

Additionally, the town is working toward improvements for cyclists heading in the other direction from Knoxville Court. That $50,000 project would entail securing an easement, installing a paved bike path from Knoxville Court to Industrial Drive, and striping the pavement on Industrial Drive for a bike lane, Berry said.

The grant-funded project also would create a bikeway with "signage and sharrow markings" on Depot Road, from its intersection with Industrial Drive to its intersection with Route 1, according to the grant application.

Berry said the extension on Depot Road is part of a larger proposal in the future to create an east-west connection over to Groton City, which was a goal identified in the 2004 Bike Pedestrian Master Plan. The proposed plan was to use various on-road and off-road strategies from Depot Road to Fort Hill Road to South Road to Tower Avenue connecting to Thomas Road, which has an on-road bike lane.

He said Groton is programming money through the Capital Improvement Program in future fiscal years to complete this project in stages.

Burt said that once Groton begins working with the state, the town will be able to develop a precise timeline for the grant-funded project based on the state's requirements.

Beyond these improvements, regional planning officials are eyeing future connections in the region, such as the idea for an Eastern Shoreline Path proposed in the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government's 2019 regional bike and pedestrian plan. The proposal calls for "a continuous bike-friendly corridor from the Rhode Island line in Pawcatuck to the Connecticut River I-95 Baldwin Bridge" between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.

Kate Rattan, Transportation Program Manager with the council of governments, said the recommendations in the planning study would require further planning and design. The proposed Eastern Shoreline Path is vast, so it would need to be tackled in pieces. Most of it would need to be planned and designed, though some pieces could be carried out as part of maintenance programs at the local level. The proposed route would include existing infrastructure, such as the Trolley Trail.

Improving accessibility in Groton

The town's 2004 trails master plan called for connecting "neighborhoods including residential areas, shopping, schools, parks and other local destinations" and creating recreational "trails that provide access to public open space," Groton's grant application states.

The Trolley Trail expansion project will improve accessibility to the public library, senior center, businesses and schools, as well as programs run by the Parks and Recreation Department, by helping people to more safely travel to the Groton Community Center. That will "allow enhanced social and economic opportunities to underserved communities," according to the application.

The application also notes that the town recently adopted a Mixed Use Village Center zone for Poquonnock Bridge "that will allow more small scale businesses and higher density housing."

"A portion of the proposed on-road bike path project falls within the Special Focus Area," the application continues, and addresses the pedestrian-friendly goal of "allowing public access to businesses and town facilities without using motorized transportation."

In addition to Groton, locally, Old Saybrook was awarded a $596,413 grant for Elm Street and Boston Post Road sidewalks, according to the governor's news release. Bristol, Meriden, New Britain, Portland, Stamford, Waterbury, West Hartford and Windsor also will receive grant funding for projects.

"Improving our transportation infrastructure with projects like these is important to ensuring that all of our residents have equitable and safe access to get to their schools, their work, and can support our state's small businesses," Lamont said in a statement. "That is why it is critical that we continue to make smart investments that will further enhance our state's quality of life. These projects will not only make our neighborhoods safer, but will support the growth of the economy while also becoming more pedestrian-friendly and more environmentally-conscious."

k.drelich@theday.com

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