By Brett Yates
The Vermont Agency of Transportation will provide a grant worth $28,800 to Rutland City for a “scoping study” that will examine potential permanent improvements on Center Street between Wales Street and Merchants Row. The Rutland Board of Aldermen authorized the mayor to sign the grant agreement at a Feb. 1 meeting.
The announcement of the VTrans grant, for which the city submitted a bid in September, came two weeks after the Rutland Redevelopment Authority received permission to apply for yet another state grant that, with any luck, will pay for a second round of seasonal alterations on Center Street, where outdoor dining decks, planters, public art, and other removable features enlivened downtown last summer.
Looking further down the road, the VTrans grant, by contrast, will go toward envisioning a full, year-round reconfiguration of the block, which may incorporate some of the features from the temporary makeover.
Rutland’s grant application called the existing design of Center Street “antiquated and dangerous,” with wide travel lanes that encourage speeding, an excess of parking for cars, and sidewalks that don’t meet ADA requirements. While the pilot program in 2020 narrowed the street’s two automobile lanes, the city would also like to review one-way and pedestrian-only configurations.
According to RRA Executive Director Brennan Duffy, it’ll take about “a month and half” for the city to select a vendor to sketch out the possibilities. The consultants’ work could last as long as a year, but Duffy hopes to have a finished study sometime this fall, following “several public engagement meetings.”
A survey by the Rutland Regional Planning Commission suggested that 88% of Rutlanders approved of the provisional redesign of Center Street, which encouraged the city to look into a full-time transformation.
“The feeling was that that was successful and well-received, and we’ll try to get an idea of the cost and finalize a design that would be potentially implemented,” Duffy said.