Blue Hill has won a $400,000 federal grant to extend its South Street sidewalks, but the work won’t happen until the money arrives, likely sometime in 2021.
Members of the Blue Hill Board of Selectmen, and state and federal transportation officials will meet Friday to discuss next steps since the Transportation Alternative Program of the Federal Highway Administration awarded the grant to pay for the town’s sidewalk extension project last month, Selectman Jim Schatz said.
Set to cost about $500,000, the extension of sidewalks about a third of a mile southward along South Street is part of a larger town plan to better connect South Street’s two schools, supermarket, pharmacy and fitness center to downtown Blue Hill’s harbor, post office, hardware store and nearby George Stevens Academy.
Blue Hill will contribute $100,000 to the project. The likely 2021 date for the work, Selectman Vaughn Leach said, is “no holdup that has anything to do with the Blue Hill end of things.”
“Sometimes the bureaucratic end of this costs more than the project itself,” he said.
But the two-year delay — which is common with competitive grants like the one Blue Hill has won — allows for projects to be designed and bid competitively, said Andrew Bickmore, director of the Maine Department of Transportation’s Results and Information Office.
There’s also a potential budget advantage for Blue Hill, he said.
“If they were to have to come up with the $100,000 all at once, that probably would be difficult,” Bickmore said. “This gives them a couple of years.”
Town officials are concerned that the project’s estimated costs will change over that span, Leach said.
“The cost estimates will be three or four years old by the time the money is awarded,” he said.
Still, Leach said he was glad that the town won the grant. The town’s first attempt at the grant, in 2017, failed.
The money will pay for new sidewalks and road shoulders from the traffic circle on South Street near First National Bank southward to The Bay School and the nearby Blue Hill Harbor School, according to a 27-page grant application filed by Blue Hill Community Development, a volunteer group. The Bay School is an independent pre-K-8 Waldorf school, and the Blue Hill Harbor School is a private high school.
The grant will come from slightly more than $3 million Maine receives annually from the Federal Highway Administration for road and sidewalk improvements, Bickmore said.