Story and Photographs by John Murray
Jackson Wandres from the RBA Group uncorked a far reaching vision for the Waterbury Greenway Project last night during a presentation at the Board of Aldermen in City Hall. RBA had been hired to design the phase one section of the greenway which included the Platts Mills section of the city up to the Eagle Street Bridge (all in the south end), but through an aggressive intervention by Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary, those plans expanded to continue north to Colonial Plaza.
As the plans developed, RBA, in conjunction with city grant writer, Cathy McNamara, and project manager, Sal Porzio, came up with the idea of applying for a Federal TIGER Grant to fund and expand the project. A TIGER Grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation and stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER). The U.S. government designed TIGER grants in order to incentivize cleaning up environmental problems and reducing the country's dependence on energy.
Apparently the Greenway Project, and it's focus on developing an alternative means of transportation around the city - bicycling - fits snuggly inside the TIGER Grant concept. With the potential of landing a TIGER Grant, RBA conceptualized a stunning greenway connction into downtown Waterbury, along Freight Street, and the creation of a signature new city park directly on the Naugtauck River. This is bigger and bolder than anyone involved in the greenway planning during the past several years had imagined.
It has the potential to be a game changer, but how real is the possibilty that the city could actually land a TIGER Grant. Apparently quite real. Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport have all recieved tens of millions of dollars in TIGER Grant money, and so far, Waterbury has received nothing. With concepts in place, the city can begin to move forward in earnest in applying for the grant in the late Spring of 2014, and if all goes well, shovels will finally penetrate the ground in 2015.
The City of Waterbury would have to match 20% of the grant to qualify, but putting up $6.4 million to trigger a massive economic development project that could alter the psyche of the city would appear to be a bargain.
A 19-acre park along Jackson Street would become a signature of the greenway project and reconnecting city residents with the Naugatuck River.
An addition to the project would be to punch Jackson Street through Freight Street, and connect it to West Main Street. This concept has been bantered around for more than a decade, but with the RBA design, it can now become a reality and provide a means to by-pass downtown traffic.
Another highlight of RBA's design would take the Greenway up he Mad River and connect it to the Anamet site, which the city now has control of.
Freight Street is ridiculously underutilized, but with the new plans the greenway would connect downtown to the Naugatuck River and help revtalize this industrial area.