Compact, pedestrian-friendly development is as important in small towns as it is in large cities, and can help create a traditional “Main Street” look that makes downtowns attractive. With that in mind, Governor Malloy and Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein traveled to Berlin last week to announce 14 grants, totaling just under $5 million, from the state’s Main Street Investment Fund, which is reserved for streetscape and other improvements in small towns. Grants ranged from $70,000 to $500,000, once again highlighting that a relatively small amount of investment in pedestrian infrastructure can go a long way towards funding numerous projects.
It was good to see the administration highlight Berlin’s grant, which will be used to improve pedestrian connectivity in the area around its train station. The town is currently served by Amtrak and will see increased commuter service after the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Line opens in 2016. Speaking with WTNH, Berlin Economic Development Director James Mahoney said the planned improvements include new crosswalks, landscaping and curb extensions at intersections along Farmington Avenue and Main Street.
Grant recipients ranged in size from Canaan (1,200 residents) to Fairfield (59,000 residents), but most grants were awarded to municipalities with fewer than 20,000 people. Four of the 14 municipalities winning grants have rail stations. And although decorative improvements were eligible for the program, most winning municipalities said their grants would improve pedestrian safety and provide better access to places like train stations, shopping areas, senior housing, schools and libraries.