Cheshire considers bridge linking canal trail to high school

Cheshire considers bridge linking canal trail to high school

reporter photo

CHESHIRE — Town leaders are considering a plan for a pedestrian bridge over Willow Creek to connect nearby neighborhoods and the rails trail with the sidewalk network near Cheshire High School.

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which will likely be complete through town this fall, runs along the east side of Willow Creek. Between Higgins Road and Cornwall Avenue there are no crossing points.

Paul Bowman, the Town Council vice chairman, said the bridge could provide a safer route for walkers to the high school as well as increase pedestrian access around town.

The pedestrian crossing would allow students to walk to the high school away from main roads.

“It’s an option,” Bowman said.

Cost estimates prepared last year by Public Works Director George Noewatne for a bridge over Willow Creek to town-owned land behind the high school totaled $430,000, prompting some councilors to balk at the idea. 

The actual bridge surface is the least expensive part of the job. Noewatne said piles would have to be driven to support the bridge since the area is wetlands. Working in wetlands also requires a host of permits, a process that would be complicated since the bridge would sit on both state and town land.

“The (estimate includes) a substantial cost of permitting, for sure,” he said.

A similar bridge near Jarvis Street was built in 2015.  That bridge is 12 feet wide and “wasn’t cheap,” Noewatne said.

Bowman said the bridge behind the high school doesn’t have to be that wide and added that the expense could be lower than Noewatne’s estimates.

“The numbers that came back seemed extreme,” Bowman said. “I don’t think it needs to be anywhere near that extravagant.”

He hoped the council would continue to consider the project.

Cathleen Devlin, who lives near the high school, supported the bridge and said it could help events, such as the Cheshire half marathon in April, as well as provide more walking opportunities.

Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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