Courtesy: Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department
The second stage of construction
More construction is expected to begin Monday on the Burlington Bike Path as the city launches a six-month project that will detour cyclists to North Avenue during the height of tourist season.
The phase two rehabilitation will repave a 3.3-mile section between the North Beach Campground and the Winooski River, where a bridge connects Burlington's New North End to Colchester. The first phase, from the waterfront to the North Beach Campground, was completed this spring.
Cycling advocacy organization Local Motion is concerned about the work's impact on tourism and cyclist safety during the high summer season, according to executive director Jason Van Driesche — though the group supports the upgrade.
"For most people, there's no good time to do a project like this," acknowledged project manager Jon Adams-Kollitz of the Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department. The long-term benefits are worth it, he said. "All we can do is ask for forgiveness in terms of the inconvenience."
Details on the project have been released slowly, in part because the project has faced delays. The Board of Finance did not approve the $2.6 million construction cost until June 5, and the city is just now notifying residents about the construction timeline.
Construction staging for the project will begin Monday, Adams-Kollitz said. The first stretch of the two-part rehabilitation will begin on June 21 or 22, closing the northernmost section of the path between Shore Road and North Avenue extension. If all goes as planned, that slice will be barred to pedestrian traffic through mid-September, Adams-Kollitz said. Then the southern section, between North Beach and Shore Road, would be closed between September and mid-December.
In the meantime, cyclists will be diverted to the fast-moving traffic on North Avenue, where there is now a bike lane because of a pilot program instituted last year.
But the city could pull the plug on the pilot in the near future. The Burlington City Council solicited input from residents and will determine later this summer whether the bike lane will remain — or if North Avenue once again becomes a four-lane road for vehicular traffic. If the North Avenue bike lane is removed, it could mean trouble for cyclists detouring off the bike path.
"Projects are full of unknowns," Adams-Kollitz said. "North Ave is one of those unknowns."
Local Motion, which also rents bicycles and runs the bike ferry between the Colchester causeway and the Champlain Islands, has met with the department regularly to discuss the process and raise questions. The city has been responsive to their concerns, Van Driesche said. The group's priority, he said, is "the user experience, and how the path works for the least experienced users."
In addition to repaving, the renovation will broaden the path to 11 feet, with a two-foot shoulder on each side, Adams-Kollitz said. The new path will include improved drainage and stormwater management, along with three "pause places" for users to rest.
Burlingtonians should get used to the construction: The southern portion of the path, from Perkins Pier to Oakledge Park, will be repaved in 2018.
"The saving grace is, if you go down and look at the part of the bike path they built last year — there's no concern on our part that the end product is going to be awesome," Van Driesche said.