YARMOUTH – The Town Council is weighing financial and safety concerns as it considers a $500,000 proposal to complete an extension of the Beth Condon Memorial Pathway along Route 1.

The Maine Department of Transportation has agreed to spend $400,000 in federal money on the project, which would complete a 1,450-foot section of the bicycle and pedestrian pathway beneath the East Main Street overpass.

If approved, the work likely would be done in 2013 — 20 years after Condon, then a 15-year-old Yarmouth High School sophomore, was struck and killed by a drunken driver while walking along Route 1.

“The council is unanimous in its support of extending the pathway,” said Steve Woods, council chairman. “The question is whether this is the right time and this is the right use for the money.”

The answer to both of those questions is yes, says Dan Ostrye, chairman of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. No deaths have been reported along the targeted section of Route 1, and committee members want to keep it that way, he said.

The pathway is heavily traveled by residents who frequent stores, banks, restaurants and medical offices along Route 1, Ostrye said, especially people who live in two large apartment complexes nearby.

“That area of Route 1 is a gauntlet without a sidewalk,” Ostrye said. “We often see women with small children walking along the shoulder. This project isn’t only about honoring Beth Condon’s memory. It’s about preventing it from happening again.”

The town’s share of the project would be $100,000, said Town Engineer Dan Jellis. Initially, the council must decide whether to spend $5,000 toward $21,000 in design costs; $16,000 would be covered by federal dollars.

Construction would cost $479,000, including $95,000 from the town, Jellis said. Despite the current financial turmoil in Washington, D.C., the promise of federal transportation money coming through in the future is “relatively secure,” he said.

The council postponed voting on the project on July 21 to gather more information and is expected to reconsider the matter on Thursday.

The project would include a raised sidewalk for pedestrians and cyclists and a barrier separating the sidewalk from traffic, Jellis said.

Woods said councilors questioned whether extending the pathway beneath the East Main Street overpass would narrow travel lanes to the point of creating a traffic hazard for motorists.

“There’s concern that we may trade one safety problem for another,” Woods said.

The state-approved project calls for reducing the width of traffic lanes from 12 to 11 feet, Jellis reported in a memo last week. He said the state has allowed traffic lanes as narrow as 10 feet and noted that narrower lanes tend to reduce travel speeds and accident rates.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee is planning a fundraising campaign to offset the town’s portion of the project with donations and grants, Ostrye said.

The first section of the Beth Condon Memorial Pathway was built in 1997 — three years after the teenager was killed while walking home from a video store at night with her boyfriend.

The initial pathway runs along Route 1, crosses Main Street near Town Hall and spans the Royal River to Forest Falls Drive.

The town decided to extend the pathway in 2006, intending to continue past the Hannaford supermarket plaza, beneath the East Main Street overpass and almost to Spring Street, Jellis said.

The project exceeded its budget, however, so the town deleted the 1,450-foot section that runs beneath the overpass.

“We should finish the project that was started in 2006,” Jellis said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]