With the final engineering study for sidewalks on the east and west side of Main Street complete, Public Works Director Michael Pastore told Town Council Wednesday night the project has gone out to bid.

Undecided on which side of Main Street sidewalks should be built, the Town Council voted July 27 to move forward with final design studies on both sides of the street with Cabezas DeAngelis Engineers and Surveyors. The bids, which are expected to have concrete numbers for both sides of the street, are due back to Public Works by Oct. 6.

Town Council has scheduled a tentative date for a public hearing Oct. 19 in order to allow the public to digest all the numbers before passing the project for either side. If the initiative is approved, then the Board of Selectmen are expected to approve potential contracts Oct. 25. If the approval process makes it that far, Pastore said the project would not begin until mid-March.

"We just can't get this done this year," Pastore said. "And rather than have people bid on it and start it or not start it, it is just more fair to everyone to say March 15. June 1 should be the construction date completion, about 75 days [later]."

The sidewalk debate has invoked serious public discussion and the public hearing July 27 was no different. Council members and residents argued the merits of installing sidewalks on either side of Main Street in relation to safety and cost.

The firm Cabezas DeAngelis Engineers and Surveyors recommended that sidewalks on the east side of the road would be the best option. Assistant Director of Public Works Tiger Mann also revealed cost estimates for sidewalk installation on the west or east side, with granite or concrete curbing.

Sidewalks with granite curbing along the east side would cost $680,000 compared to $780,000 on the west side.

Substitute concrete curbing, and the cost drops to $440,000 on the east side and $550,000 on the west. Mann also estimated an option where there would only be curbing in the necessary areas where no grass shelves exist.

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In that case, granite curbing on the east side would cost $550,000 as opposed to $685,000 on the west. With concrete curbing, the estimate again drops to $415,000 on the east and $530,000 on the west. Mann said that all cost estimates include a 15 percent contingency for tree removal. However, with the bids expected by Oct. 6, more specific numbers will be available as opposed to estimates.

At the July hearing, resident Cobie Graber urged the Town Council to look at the big picture as opposed to just the current fiscal environment because she believes the sidewalks will be a long-term addition.

"Please don't just look at the numbers. I hear what you're saying. We're now talking about spending more money to just exclusively look at the numbers," Graber said. "Please just look also the quality of life, getting our seniors out, getting people to be social. There is an economic, a social, a health impact of the sidewalk that's going to last a lot longer than the short-sighted dollar signs that we are looking at right now."

On the other hand, some residents were against the presented costs and argued against installing sidewalks.

"New Canaan is already a walkable community," resident Fred Chang said. "We have Waveny Park. We have Irwin Park with really nice walking trails. Ninety-eight percent of New Canaan residents own one or more automotive vehicles. It doesn't take a lot of effort for them to get into their cars and drive to a location in town where they could walk safely without having to inhale noxious automotive exhaust fumes. I don't think these cost estimates are what I call fully loaded costs. They only address the issue of sidewalks on either the east or the west side or both. There is additional costs, as someone earlier mentioned, for snow removal. All we have to do is look at how snow removal was done on Elm Street and Main Street this past winter. The snow was not removed entirely, it was pushed to the side and it took several days for that snow to be carted off somewhere."

The final design study for both sides of Main Street can be found on the town's website at www.newcanaan.info