Barre City Council to decide fate of truck bypass Tuesday nightStefan Hard / Staff Photo
Traffic flows Monday through the intersection of Summer Street and Seminary Street in Barre. The City Council is scheduled tonight to return to the question of using Summer Street as a truck bypass.
BARRE — City councilors are to decide tonight whether to allow big rigs to pass through downtown again.
Armed with the unanimous recommendation of their Transportation Advisory Committee and some insight from City Manager Steve Mackenzie, councilors will — at least temporarily — determine the fate of the Summer Street truck bypass that has been in place for more than a month.
Councilors have some room to maneuver after stirring controversy last month when they agreed to put the “Big Dig” construction detour to a 30-day test as a designated truck bypass of North Main Street. They could heed the committee’s recommendation and immediately end an experiment that members described as a less-than-optimal route for large trucks, or they could ignore the committee’s advice and make the temporary truck route permanent.
Based on interviews with councilors, the latter scenario is by far the less likely, though several appear open to Mayor Thomas Lauzon’s standing suggestion that voters be asked what they think on Town Meeting Day in March.
Although a majority of the council members indicated they would not oppose putting the question on the March ballot, it is far less clear how many — if any — are prepared to leave the truck route in place over the winter. At least one said that would be a deal breaker.
Although Councilor Paul Poirier said he wouldn’t mind asking voters what they think about the truck bypass, he believes the detour should be suspended until March in keeping with the committee’s recommendation.
The five-member citizens committee held three hearings on the bypass, an idea that drew objections from many who live, work and own property along the proposed truck route and some support from downtown merchants. Nearly three dozen merchants polled by the Barre Partnership expressed varying levels of support for diverting large trucks around the city’s central business district. The change, they said, would make for a more peaceful and pedestrian-friendly downtown while accentuating the amenities of the North Main Street reconstruction project.
However, many of those directly and indirectly affected by the proposed bypass have complained that the truck route simply shifts problems — like noise and exhaust — to Summer Street, while raising safety issues associated with funneling large trucks through a neighborhood that is home to several residential properties, a number of small businesses, two churches and a church-run school. The route, they said, features four 90-degree turns and relies on roads — primarily Summer Street and to a lesser extent Maple Avenue and Elm Street — that aren’t designed to take the pounding associated with being a designated truck route.
The committee embraced many of those sentiments and has urged the council to restore a pre-Big Dig traffic pattern that would allow large trucks traveling through the city back onto North Main Street.
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