Government Lifestyle

West Hartford Receives Grant To Study Trail Connection to Hartford and Newington

Courtesy of Bike West Hartford

The grant will be used for planning and design of an extension to West Hartford’s existing Trout Brook Trail.

Trout Brook Trail sign at Trout Brook Drive and Jackson Street, which is the final phase of the trail scheduled for completion this summer. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford received notice Monday that included in the $10 million of state grants announced by Gov. Ned Lamont under the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Connecticut Recreational Trails Grant Program, is funding for the planning and design of “West Hartford Multi-Use Trail Connectivity,” in the amount of $100,000.

“This would fund a study to assess options for extending the southern end of the Trout Brook Trail to New Britain Avenue and improving connectivity to Hartford and Newington,” Town Manager Rick Ledwith told We-Ha.com. The grant represents an 80% reimbursement level for a project estimated to cost $125,000, with the town responsible for the additional funding.

Courtesy of Town of West Hartford

West Hartford Town Engineer Greg Sommer described the project in the grant application, which was submitted in March 2024, as “a comprehensive planning study for its Tri-Point Greenway concept to connect existing multi-use trails in the three communities of Hartford (Hartford South Branch Trail), West Hartford (Trout Brook Trail), and Newington (CTFastrak Multi- Use Trail).”

Sommer noted that the project concept is already referebced in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), which notes a proposed action under the section on transportation strategy for extension of the Trout Brook Trail system north and south, including working with Newington on the feasibility of creating connectivity to the CTfastrak Multi-Use Trail.

“When connected by the proposed Tri-Point Greenway, the Connecticut Southern Capitol Region will have a continuous safe greenway network totaling almost 12 miles in length with over 85,000 current residents living in Hartford, New Britain, Newington, and West Hartford within easy walking distance of the trail network,” Sommer wrote in the application.

“We are so grateful to the Town of West Hartford for seizing this opportunity to plan an expansion of the Trout Brook Trail to connect us to Hartford and Newington,” said Tom Martin, who collaborated on the grant proposal in his role as a member of the board of the nonprofit organization Bike West Hartford. “Greenways are vital networks, and each new link makes it significantly easier for residents and visitors to travel safely by foot or bike throughout town and across the region. The Trout Brook Trail has already had a profound impact on our community, and its potential is still unfolding.”

The trail gaps to be explored during the study total just over three miles.

Courtesy of Town of West Hartford

The sections include from the Trout Brook Trail’s current terminus on New Park Avenue to the future terminus of Hartford’s South Branch Trail – a distance of 0.95 miles – running parallel to New Britain Avenue. Construction on the Hartford South Branch Trail is expected to commence this year.

Courtesy of Town of West Hartford

The grant application highlights the impact the connected trails can have on outdoor recreational opportunity through providing safe corridors for pedestrians and cyclists. The Tri-Point Greenway trail network “will connect diverse neighborhoods, underserved areas, major employment hubs, CTfastrak, and thereby expand transportation options for residents with limited access. The plan will incorporate Safe Route to Schools elements, as options will pass within 4,000 feet of Wolcott Elementary, 2,000 feet of Montessori Magnet at Batchelder, and 1,200 feet of Elizabeth Green School, and directly past the West Hartford Faxon Branch Library.”

The trail will also boost economic development, provide environmental benefit, and serve a variety of people throughout the Capitol Region including commuters, families and recreational users of all ages, seniors and those with disabilities, and underserved populations that might otherwise lack access to safe recreational space or transportation.

Courtesy of Town of West Hartford

The other gap to be studied is a feasibility analysis of the stretch from Elmwood to Newington Junction. Two options – shown in blue on the map graphic featured above – are a 2.25-mile route from New Park Avenue to West Hill Road in Newington that would run along Piper Brook, and a 1.5-mile connection that would run along Route 173 (Newington Road/Willard Avenue). The latter option is already being reviewed through a grant obtained by Newington last year, and the town plans to work cooperatively with Newington to ensure no efforts are being duplicated.

Courtesy of Town of West Hartford

Martin added, “We also thank the governor and CT DEEP for offering this funding, state Reps. Kate Farrar and James Sánchez for their advocacy for transportation safety, and Casey Moran of Hartford Liveable Coalition for first presenting this greenway connection idea at the Mobility Justice Dinner in January 2024. It’s clear there is a real and growing desire for safe infrastructure improvements in West Hartford that encourage car-free travel. Bike West Hartford proudly supported the town’s application and looks forward to assisting in making this project a success.”

The final phase of Trout Brook Trail construction is scheduled to take place during 2024, Sommer said in a previous conversation. Design has recently being completed for the remaining 3,900-foot section – between Jackson Avenue and Park Road. This section, Phase 3 of the overall trail, will be separated from Trout Brook Drive, along the west side of the roadway.

The project, which is funded by a previously-awarded grant, recently went out to bid and is in the process of being awarded according to the town website, with contract requiring construction to be completed by September 2024.

Phase 3 has been the most complex to design because of the proximity of the I-84 overpasses and the required narrowing of Trout Brook Drive.

Design of final phase of the Trout Brook Trail, from Jackson to Park. Town of West Hartford bid documents

The multi-user Trout Brook Trail, a linear park which is primarily off-road, 10-feet wide, is intended for use by pedestrians as well as bicyclists. It has been built in phases, and when complete will eventually extend more than 3.5 miles, from New Park Avenue to Asylum Avenue. The phases are numbered by blocks – each about a half-mile in length – from south to north, but have not been built in numerical order. The first phase to be completed, Phase 4, which runs between Park Road and Farmington Avenue, opened in 2008. Phase 1, from New Park to South Quaker Lane, opened in 2009.

Trout Brook Trail looking south from Fern Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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