The town has approved funding to move forward on installation of new sidewalk in Selkirk.
At a Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 12, up to $100,000 from the town’s General Capital Reserve Fund was approved to be used to pay for the Maple Avenue Sidewalk Project. It has been in the works since 2005.
“This is very good news,” said Supervisor John Clarkson. “It’s been pending for a long, long time — since the Egan administration.”
The third phase was stalled due to lack of funds. Another major hurdle was building a railroad crossing to link the sidewalk on either side of the tracks that pass Maple Avenue. Not including the safety crossing would mean liability issues for the town.
The estimated cost for the crossing was $1 million in 2007. By 2013, the cost of the crossing and sidewalk installation reduced to about $750,000, but was still considered to be too costly for the town. Completed installation of the sidewalk has been a major issue for residents in recent years, as the entire town works toward being a more pedestrian-friendly community.
It was one of the first concerns Clarkson heard about from residents in the area when he took office. At a community town hall meeting held in Selkirk in 2013, residents took a majority of the night asking about the sidewalk project and why it had not moved forward after so many years. Clarkson said after learning of the hurdles, town staff put more effort into reaching out to CSX and the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to see if they could begin to move forward.
Town Engineer Paul Penmen previously said the first two phases brought the sidewalk to Selkirk Fire Station No. 1 on Maple Avenue, but the next would see it reach Pausley Court.
According to Penmen, about 4,000 feet of new sidewalk will be installed on the north side of Maple Avenue, starting at John Street. It will also be handicapped accessible, with crosswalks, a pedestrian pathway and drainage improvements.
For the past two years, the town’s Engineering Department has been working with CSX and the state DOT to find a solution. The state said the town would need to install pedestrian gates in order for the project to move forward; plus the signal is old, so that will still need to be replaced. The latest estimated cost was about $500,000.
However, funds scheduled to pay for the needed crossing improvements weren’t needed after CSX completed the improvements as part of scheduled maintenance in 2014. With $100,000 from the town, $50,000 from the state local government efficiency grant and utilization of town work force, the project can now be completed.
“I want to thank Paul and the rest of the department on the creative solutions that were needed to get to this point,” said Councilman Bill Reinhardt.
Callanan Industries was granted the contract for the work.
The current solution is to widen the shoulder on the north side of the road, opposite the firehouse. A striped walking area would then be added for pedestrians, which would require some track improvements. Then, a dual crossing gate would be installed to stop pedestrians in both directions as a train passed.
“The work should be beginning soon,” said Clarkson. “That promise was made 10 years ago and were glad we are able to complete it.”