Ninja Path Update
The first section of Bennington’s Ninja Path will open soon. When complete, the path will provide a safe and comfortable walking, biking, and running route between Bennington College and Downtown Bennington, and points in between. The Town’s Highway Department will break ground on Phase 1, a 12-foot wide, paved, multi-use path connecting the Bennington College entrance to Hannaford Plaza, this July. Funding for Phase I comes from the Town and Bennington College. BCRC collaborated with the Town and MSK Engineering and Design on the design and permitting of Phase 1 for nearly a year. Challenges included securing easements and redesigning the VT67A/College Drive/Silk Road intersection to safely accommodate the path crossing to the satisfaction of the Agency of Transportation whose design standards and policies often prioritize motor vehicles and large plow trucks over pedestrian and bicycle safety.
The Town and BCRC’s goal is to open Phase II of the Ninja Path late this summer or fall. Phase II will be an interim dirt path connecting the end of the Phase I path to the Hicks Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, so the public can use the path while the final, paved path is designed and permitted, a process that will take 2-3 years. Challenges with this Phase include dealing with invasive plants, particularly honeysuckle and knotweed, securing a permit to construct the path in state right of way buffering route VT279, and designing an interim stream crossing at Furnace Brook.
Planning for Phase III, a paved path from Hannaford to Harmon Road, which will include a bridge across Furnace Brook, is already underway. BCRC is the project manager for this phase and MSK Engineering and Design is the design consultant. The $1.1 million project is funded through a VTrans grant and local matching funds from the Town. Challenges to implementing Phase III include securing rights of way and designing the path in a way that satisfies the state’s new river corridor regulations.