ANDOVER | Bob Marsh has envisioned building a footbridge across the Shawsheen River for years, by a little spot of green space sandwiched between North Main Street's shopping plazas and apartment complexes.

Marsh and the Andover Paths Committee shopped the plan around to funding agencies for two years with no luck, but before the bridge could become a pipe dream, they got their break.

In October, area planners said they're eligible for a $150,000 state grant | they just need voters at the April 23 Town Meeting to agree to put down 10 percent of it, or $15,000.

"I'm hoping people see the value in this," Marsh said. "This would help make that area a lot more pedestrian friendly."

The 60-foot-long bridge would sit by 259 N. Main St., across the street from the Frye Circle public housing on North Main Street. The bridge would connect the North Main Street side of the river to the Penguin Park Playground off Burnham Road.

The river, while attractive, inconveniences walkers in Shawsheen.

Residents who live off Haverhill Street, in Shawsheen Village, hop in cars and drive the half-mile to Market Basket or Marshall's, because there's no quick pedestrian route. Likewise, Frye Circle and Washington Park residents don't frequent the Shawsheen fields and playgrounds because of the hassle.

The footbridge would be handicap accessible and connect three miles of walking trails, Marsh said.

"We think people in Shawsheen will support this," said Margaret Pustell, a paths committee member. "They'll be able to get around more easily. It'd be very nice. ... Property values would even go up."

If the funding were to fall through, the town's $15,000 commitment would be refunded. The grant would come from the Massachusetts Highway Department, which encourages alternative transportation projects in communities around the state. The grant money comes from the state's gas tax revenue.

Marsh said any private fundraising money will go toward lowering the town's $15,000 portion.

If the group gets the grant, construction | which would take approximately six months | wouldn't start for another year or two.

"It's been a long process, longer than any of us thought," Marsh said. "But it will pay off."





What: Town Meeting

When: April 23, 24, 7 p.m.

Where: Andover High School Field House, Shawsheen Road

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