Bath receives grants to boost downtown accessibility

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BATH — The city has won a trio of grants geared toward enhancing downtown accessibility for people with impaired mobility.

The grants totalling more than $127,000 come from the Maine Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration.

In the past two years, city staff, residents and members of the Bicycle-Pedestrian Committee have collaborated to identify and address accessibility issues throughout the downtown, City Planner Andrew Deci said last week. A compliance plan, geared toward eliminating barriers for residents who are mobility impaired, was ultimately forged.

“In the city of Bath we have a lot of vertical curb faces, so there are no ramps in certain locations,” Deci said. “Some of the crosswalks are completely inaccessible. This helps to alleviate those issues.”

Thirteen Maine communities submitted 42 project requests through the New Freedom Access program, which is federally funded and administered by states, and aims to enhance transit access for people with disabilities.

The Maine DOT chose 21 projects, which Deci said would remove safety and physical barriers for the disabled, allowing them to better use bus services in their communities to get to work or access health care.

Bath’s offering of the CityBus service, a system partially funded by the FTA, made it an eligible applicant. The crosswalk projects are all along Front Street, at intersections with Centre, Broad, Elm and Summer streets, and largely include accessible ramps.

Many of the people who have a hard time getting around downtown tend to be the ones who use the bus service, so “it’s a good pairing,” Deci said.

Project engineering starts next month, with construction to follow next year, according to Deci. Eighty percent of project funding comes from the FTA, while the rest is state money; no local funds are to be used, he said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.