BURLINGTON Five Vermont communities, including Rutland, will be sharing more than $300,000 in state grants to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements in their downtowns, officials announced last week. These grants will help strengthen these important centers of job creation and social activity, said Kevin Dorn, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and chairman of the Downtown Development Board. This is in keeping with Governor Jim Douglas vision of revitalizing Vermonts downtowns. The awards include: Bennington: $5,157 for street signs, planters, and trees. Bristol: $74,772 for Prince Lane improvements to the back side of Main Street buildings to include undergrounding utilities, and a new sidewalk that will open up access to the rear of the buildings, clean up a neglected area, and improve pedestrian safety. Burlington: $75,000 to contribute to a complete replacement of street lights at the Church Street Marketplace. Montpelier: $74,961 for restoring an historic railroad turntable and creating a new public park, Turntable Park, on Stone Cutters Way. Rutland: $75,000 for replacing streetlights on Strongs Avenue and Washington Street, the fifth phase of the downtown streetlight project in Rutland. These projects represent important investments in our communities, which not only help promote commerce but also help prevent sprawl and make our citizens less dependent on automobiles, Dorn said. The transportation grant program was created specifically to support downtown capital transportation projects through the Vermont Downtown Program, which is part of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The Downtown Board also approved designation of East Montpeliers village center, which runs along Route 2 roughly from the East Montpelier Home Center and just north of Mekkelsens RV, to the town offices and fire station at the junction of Routes 2 and 14. In addition to providing training, technical assistance, and administering grant and tax credit programs, the Downtown Program also oversees designation of downtowns and village centers. To date, 23 downtowns and 83 village centers have been designated and all older and historic buildings in these designated areas are eligible for state revitalization incentives.