Stowe’s pretty sidewalks, made of artfully intertwined pieces, just didn’t stand up to Vermont winters. Pieces popped out or broke off, it was hard to repair missing chunks, and pretty soon the town would have run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
So, the town select board asked voters to approve $3.4 million to replace about 15,000 feet of sidewalk. The sidewalk project was timed to coincide with the state’s complete overhaul of Route 100 between Waterbury and Stowe, so the village wouldn’t have to be ripped apart twice.
At the same time, the sidewalk project offered an opportunity to bury the myriad wires strung from utility poles that crisscross Main Street. Stowe is a tourist town, and the attractive downtown is a big part of its marketing efforts. Locals rather enjoy watching tourists try in vain to photograph the scenic Stowe Community Church without the intrusion of utility wires. Next year, it will no longer be much of a struggle.
As a companion to the sidewalk project, voters were asked for $3.2 million to bury about 1,000 feet of cable under the new sidewalks. The utility wires serve about half a dozen companies, and a lot of equipment is required — out of sight of Main Street pedestrians — to channel those lines through underground conduits.
In votes in November 2018, the sidewalk project was approved 2,013-545 and the utility lines were approved 1,713-866. Municipal bonds to finance both projects will be paid off in 30 years — the sidewalks from local property taxes, the utility lines from Stowe’s 1 percent local option tax on sales of hotel rooms, meals and alcohol.