Friday, May 18, 2012

Burlington bike path marathon-ready, mayor announces

Ben Wang of Burlington waits for his son Thursday morning on the waterfront bike path where recent paving has recently been completed. Further repairs to path, which was heavily damaged by lake flooding in 2011, will take place later this year.
It’s easier going on Burlington’s bike path this year. 

With freshly rolled blacktop and a better-behaved Lake Champlain as a backdrop Thursday morning, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced that portions of the path damaged by last year’s record flooding have been repaired and resurfaced in time for the upcoming KeyBank Vermont City Marathon.

“One year ago, if we were standing in this very place on this very day, we would have been about waist-deep in water,” said Peter Delaney, executive director of RunVermont, who joined the mayor for the announcement at a news conference near Perkins Pier. 

“We’re going to be on-course this year. We couldn’t be happier,” Delaney said. 

Quick melting of snowpack in early 2011, coupled with unprecedented spring rainfall, drove up lake levels, which remained above flood stage for weeks on end. High winds battered much of Vermont’s shoreline with waves and heavy debris, uprooting trees and undermining coastal structures. 

Erosion along the bike path last year forced a short course detour through the lakeside sewage treatment plant and rail yard. 

Repairs to the full, 7.5-mile length of Burlington’s stretch of the path are scheduled to be finished this year by the Department of Public Works. 

That cost is estimated at $1.7 million, 75 percent of which will be paid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the Mayor’s Office. State funding will pay 15 percent of the cost; Burlington’s share is 10 percent. 

FEMA public assistance project coordinator Ken Pinkham said Burlington has received about $586,800 in federal money for bike path repairs. 

Vermont has received about $77.3 million in federal aid to help with recovery from last year’s flood damage, Pinkham said. 

That figure could grow, he said, as a result of ongoing assessments of repair costs — and the possible shifting of funding formulae. 

“Those values change every day,” Pinkham said. 

Out of the equation — for now — is the much larger challenge of upgrading the full, 13-mile length of the path (the Island Line Trail) that extends into Colchester and along a causeway into Lake Champlain, and, via a seasonal ferry service, to South Hero. 

Portions of the causeway were swept away during the lake flooding, and ferry service will not run this summer. 

Safety and structural upgrades to the full trail remain in planning and fundraising stages. 

Burlington engineers have sought effective short-term improvements that might dovetail into more ambitious and enduring construction, Department of Parks and Recreation Director Mari Steinbach said. 

“It’s tricky, but we have a great team,” Steinbach said.

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter

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