NEW CANAAN — The town has applied for $2 million in unexpected state funds to help pay for the Locust Avenue parking facility project.

Town officials were informed last month by Western Connecticut Council of Governments that $17 million had become available as a result of a tie-up in the state’s allocation of funds following the government bailout of 2008 and 2009, Town Planner/Senior Enforcement Officer Steve Kleppin told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday. Two days later, Kleppin submitted an application for $2 million.

“From what I was told, the state DOT (Department of Transportation) had been sitting on this money. This is federal money that is supposed to filter down to the states and then into the municipalities,” Kleppin said.

The money — which will be distributed after a review of applications by WestCog’s internal transportation group and subsequent allocation suggestions submitted to the Department of Transportation — is to be used for “road improvements, sidewalks, bridges and so forth,” according to Kleppin. Former SWRPA municipalities Darien, Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton are also eligible for funding.

Kleppin explained via email that the money would help to fund a “deck, possibly accessed from Heritage Hill Road, repaving and striping the existing lower level and adding a small pocket park in the southwest corridor of the lot.”

Preliminary engineering, an initial traffic study, soil borings and architectural renderings have been completed on the project.

“There’s no guarantee, but $2 million would pay for half of the deck,” Kleppin said.

Kleppin added that the first round of allocated funds may be followed by a second distribution of money totaling around $8 million.

Plans to finish the Locust Avenue project have picked up steam since 2011, Kleppin said, but had previously been deferred to allow for the Saxe Middle School Remediation Project tentatively scheduled for this summer.

“It’s probably the only conversation I’ve had in my five years of doing this where there was money available that wasn’t expected,” First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said.

The board unanimously approved Kleppin’s request to use the money toward the project.

Selectman Nick Williams called it opportune time to undertake the project.

“You look at the post office going up now and the construction to Forest Street — it’s a whole new vibe in the northeastern part of the village and I think we need to capitalize on that,” he said.

justin.papp@scni.com; newcanaannews.com