Wilton to Seek State Funds for Walkway Connecting Train Station to Town

Town planner Robert Nerney presented to the Board of Selectmen at Tuesday night’s BoS meeting to seek their endorsement to pursue a STEAP grant from the state of CT. The grant would help to fund the design and construction of a paved walkway that would bridge across the Norwalk River to connect Wilton’s main train station to the town center. Nerney said the project would cost $546,000.

First selectman Bill Brennan said the project is “something we’ve wanted and needed.” Nerney called it an “idea that’s been around for a number of years.”

Nerney explained that town officials would like to apply for a STEAP grant–a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant–with the CT Office of Policy Management, which can award grants up to $500,000. He said that they have been unsuccessful in past applications, but are hopeful enough to want to apply again.

“We think its a very strong application. We think the idea of connectivity between the train station and the town is important for businesses, it’s important for the people who use rail. there are 600 residential units just adjacent to the Wilton Center, connected by a network of sidewalks, and we think this has very strong merits. While we can’t speak to the outcome, it’s a very competitive process throughout the state, we think it’s well worth the effort to go ahead and apply.”

Second selectman Hal Clark noted that the walkway concept is part of the town’s Plan of Conservation and it’s been highly recommended. He also noted the number of people involved in either Trackside Teen Center or the office building at the station–whose primary tenant is the financial company CommonFund–would benefit from such a plan. Brennan echoed the need.

“Anybody at this facility, in order to get into the town center, they have to walk up and around, back and over, and cross the street here,” he explained, gesturing to a map of the intersection at Rt. 7 and Ridgefield Rd., where there is currently a large roadway that bridges over the river, near the station. He indicated that the state should be responsible for plowing the sidewalks there–but usually doesn’t, leaving the area to be plowed by Wilton’s Dept. of Public Works.

“It’s made it very difficult. We’ve got Wilton Commons and that’s why it’s such an important project,” he said. “That’s why we want to submit this now. We’ve come very close and we’ve had really good feedback in the past. By giving them true cost–$546,000–it shows we’re willing to pick up a small portion of the cost,” indicating that if the state contributed the full $500,000, Wilton would make up the remaining $46,000.

Selectman Richard Dubow encouraged Nerney to also seek a written endorsement from the town’s Economic Development Commission, saying, “You never know what’s going to catch their eye,” referring to state officials who would award the grant. Brennan agreed, saying, “It could be built around retention of businesses in Wilton, and jobs.”

The first selectman mentioned that when Governor Dannel Malloy visited Wilton last year, he was aware of the idea. He referenced that Wilton Commons, the senior living facility on Station Rd., was funded with the help of state funds. The selectmen agreed that seeking endorsement of Wilton’s state and congressional representatives, including Congressman Jim Himes, “would add weight” to the application.