Published: Friday, April 18, 2008
By Joel Banner Baird
Free Press Staff Writer
RICHMOND -- The project requires a calculator and aerial mapping. It requires a truce between trees, pedestrians and parking places.
It requires patience: Construction might not begin until 2010.
Most immediately, the Richmond Village Center Streetscape project needs residents to speak their minds, Town Administrator Ron Rodjenski said this week.
The public is invited to attend and participate in a discussion of what might give the village center a safer and better-looking streetscape at 7 p.m. Monday at the Richmond Town Center meeting room.
"We're still in the stages of defining the scope of the project," Rodjenski said. "Nothing's cast in stone; everything's on the table."
Even the price tag. Rodjenski ballparked the budget around $2 million, but said funding plans varied on different stretches of roads and sidewalks, following several state and federal formulae.
Financial prudence, he said, would likely shorten everyone's wish list. Improved lighting and buried utilities, for instance, would dramatically drive up the price -- as would the purchase of additional rights of way.
Historically, pedestrians and horses shaped Richmond's major thoroughfares: Main Street was laid out to be 3 rods (49 and a half feet) wide in order to accommodate 18th-century militia drills.
Gradually, much of the village's major thoroughfares became dominated by the automobile. Business owners and their customers have lobbied for years for more on-street parking.
"We have some competing interests," Rodjenski said. "But the final emphasis is on safety."
Some of the project's funding on Jericho Road will come from the federal Safe Routes to Schools program, which aims to take the guesswork out of routes most frequented by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Rodjenski said piggy-backing those improvements with scheduled water, sewer and stormwater upgrades might help keep costs down.
Richmond resident Erik Sandblom, who leads the design team, said he welcomed public comments in narrowing the options -- but cautioned that the outcome must align itself with federal and state design, environmental and funding criteria.
Some of his plans and those of his colleague, Burlington-based landscape architect Kathleen Ryan, revolve around one question: How far will someone be willing to walk to a business from a parking spot?
"I ran some errands in Burlington this morning," Sandblom said Monday. "I parked in a garage and walked two blocks on Church Street. You don't think anything of that in Burlington. In Richmond there have been different patterns."
Sandblom said new parking spots are not part of the plan, but easier pedestrian access to more parts of the village might be the next best thing.
"We can simplify entrances and exits for cars, help pedestrians anticipate traffic, and make better use of green space," he said. "Businesses will benefit from more pleasing streetscape.
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 or firstname.lastname@example.org