The Manchester Board of Directors voted to approve an archway in its options to repair the Edgerton Street culvert, connect Center Springs Park to Broad Street and maintain the Cheney Rail Trail.
Directors voted 7-2 in favor of the large arch opening, after being presented four possible options - including two pedestrian bridges of varying sizes and a smaller arch. The proposal that directors approved, already a revision from earlier design options presented to them earlier this year, will cost the town an estimated $1,098,000, the second most costly of the four options.
The cheapest of the four options, a large pedestrian bridge spanning about 82 feet, was actually championed by three directors before ultimately being voted down. That bridge would have cost an estimated $871,000.
(The proposal that directors received is attached as a PDF to this article.)
"I believe that the public was screaming for safety when we came out with this last time," said Deputy Mayor Jay Moran, a Democrat who favored the large bridge option. "I would be in favor of as wide open and as safe as possible."
While Stephen Gates, another Democratic member of the board, said the $200,000 in savings between the two proposals was what ultimately swayed him.
"$200,000 is not an insignificant amount of money," Gates said.
John Topping, another Democrat, was the third director who favored the bridge option, which he said he found the safest and most appealing of the four options to residents.
"The people that we invite to use that park and use our trail systems are going to be afraid," Topping said. "I cannot and will not vote for anything that is going to impede the use or make people afraid."
After the bridge proposal was voted down 6-3, Gates switched his vote in favor of the arch.
Cheri Pelletier, a Republican member of the board, said she was concerned that the size of the bridge and the opening needed to accommodate it would leave the area open to potential vehicular traffic at some point in the future, a scenario the current board of directors has stated it does not wish to see.
Mayor Leo V. Diana noted that the board needed to find some solution to repair the culvert that runs under Edgerton Street, which has closed the road to vehicular traffic since August of 2009. Plans also call for Center Springs Park to be connected to the rehabilitated Broad Street at some point in the future, but the details on that are still cloudy and have not been finalized by the town.
Voters allocated $1.5 million in a November 2011 bond referendum for the culvert repairs and park connection.