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Montpelier City Council
Study proposes traffic safety measures for Capital City

MONTPELIER — A new study proposes alternatives aimed at making travel through the Capital City safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Main Street/Barre Street Bicycle and Pedestrian Scoping Study was presented by representatives of Dubois & King at a meeting of City Council on Wednesday. The year-long study was funded by a $20,000 grant from the VTrans Bicycle and Pedestrian Program with a matching grant from the city.

The study was aptly named for the Barre Street/Main Street intersection, the most conflicted intersection in the city for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. The study proposed safety alternatives that included changes to roadways, intersections, sidewalks and shared pathways.

The options were welcomed by city councilors and residents; there was consensus that public meetings should be held to review choices before making any decisions.

The study suggested that traffic circles on Main Street at the intersections with Memorial Drive and Barre, State and School streets would help regulate a more equitable traffic flow for drivers and improve safety for all. A traffic circle at the intersection of Spring and Elm streets was also proposed.

Mini-traffic circles that could be mounted would still allow large vehicles to make turns through intersections and were an easy, low-cost fix to improve traffic flow, the study states. The use of traffic circles would also eliminate the need for left-turn lanes and allow for buffered bike lanes to increase safety for cyclists and encourage biking downtown, the study states.

Councilor Dona Bate, who was on the study committee, said she strongly favored the use of traffic circles after having visited European and Scandinavian cities, where they are favored for safety and traffic-control benefits.

A second traffic control method proposed the use of adaptive traffic signals along Main Street at the intersections with Barre, State and School streets that would use real-time video monitoring to synchronize traffic flow to reduce congestion but is a more expensive option.

A third “hybrid” alternative could combine the alternate use of traffic circles and traffic signals, said Public Works Director Tom McArdle.

The use of either or both options would also help to reduce traffic delays and frustration for drivers and increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians at crosswalks at the Main Street intersections with Barre, State, Langdon and School streets, councilors were told.

Raising crosswalks for visibility and curb extensions to shorten the distance across the roadway also would improve safety for pedestrians, the study stated.

Inevitably, other solutions for traffic control and safety raised the issue of reducing street parking in the city. The study did not consider the possible effect of the proposed city-owned parking garage off State Street in its findings.

The study found improving sight distances at intersections by removing parking spaces to “daylight” them would increase safety.

The loss of parking would be even greater if the city decided to add buffered bike lanes that separate cyclists from vehicles to increase safety. In some cases, it might require the loss of parking on one side of Main Street to provide the extra width needed for bike lanes on both sides of the street. Farther down Main Street, it might require changing angled parking to parallel parking that would also reduce spaces.

It is also proposed to move the Main Street opposite Langdon Street further north to reduce traffic delays at the Main and State streets intersection.

Other issues highlighted included making pedestrian safety at priority at the Main and School streets intersection for school children in crosswalks by eliminating parking spaces within 20 feet to increase visibility.

On Barre Street, where it is proposed to provide a recreation path link from Main Street to the Rec Center to connect with the recreation path on Stone Cutters Way, an alternative suggested the creation of a shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians.

Another proposal to improve safety on Barre Street for cyclists would be to create buffered bike lanes that might eliminate parking farther up the street.

With the opening of the Caledonia Spirits distillery facility on Barre Street at the end of May, it is expected that visitor traffic on Barre Street will increase. Other efforts to attract new businesses and visitors to the downtown will also add to traffic challenges that the study hopes to address.

Councilor Ashley Hill, who used to live on Barre Street, said she was concerned any loss of parking on Barre Street would make it more difficult for residents to find parking.

There is also pressure to address the Barre Street/Main Street intersection, with the completion of a short section of new recreation path between Taylor Street and Main Street this spring that will connect the west and east sides of the city for recreation path cyclists and pedestrians. A solution is complicated by the rail line that also crosses the intersection.

A survey during the study showed the greatest interest was in increasing bicycle friendliness and safety around the city.

One resident suggested the city should consider a micro-transit system that would reduce the need for people to drive downtown. Creating safe bike lanes on city streets would also encourage people to bike instead, he added.

The council agreed to hold meetings to measure public input before a final report on proposals is completed.

To view the study, visit www.montpelier-vt.org/999/Main-and-Barre-Street-Corridors.

In other business, the council postponed discussion on a revision of the city’s tax stabilization policy.

The council also approved spending $10,000 on a study to renovate the Rec Center on Barre Street.

stephen.mills @timesargus.com


Local
Students signing up to stay after school

BARRE — Nearly 30 children with energy to burn and a just-devoured snack in their stomachs stood outside the locked library at Barre City Elementary and Middle School on Wednesday afternoon waiting for someone to come with a key.

They wanted in — to a library — after school.

The emphasis here is on “after school,” because the library was one of three venues where students — a mix of third- and fourth-graders from Barre and Barre Town — were anxiously waiting on Wednesday and it wasn’t the books they were after.

“This is Legoland day!” declared A.J. Lange, an otherwise subdued third-grader from Barre who happens to take Legos very seriously.

How seriously?

So seriously, that Lange was well on his way to methodically constructing a farmyard — complete with a chicken coop — not long after the library doors opened and kits filled with the colorful plastic building blocks were delivered.

Lange worked alone, though he was the exception as the first free five-week session of a grant-funded after school program approached its scheduled end.

Friday is the last day Barre’s centralized school will host a program that has proven far more popular than organizers anticipated. Students are on vacation next week and not long after they return the program will make its planned pivot to Barre Town Middle and Elementary School.

The roster of daily activities will be adjusted, the outdoors will be exploited, and a second free five-week session will be launched on April 29.

Thanks to a five-year grant retired superintendent Lyman Amsden secured from the American Gift Fund last year the schools have up to $350,000 — $70,000-a-year — to spend on a program that is already off to a strong start and looking to expand.

This year it’s third- and fourth-graders only and a 10-week proposition. The funding obtained by Amsden is covering everything from the cost of staff and supplies to busing students between schools and then to designated drop-off locations after the day’s activities end at 5 p.m.

Co-coordinators Jen Bisson and Tamara Cooley already are thinking bigger.

Bisson, a third-grade teacher at Barre City Elementary School, and Cooley, who teaches fourth grade at Barre Town Middle and Elementary School, would like to offer programming for first- and second-graders as well next year and Bisson has already applied for a separate grant that would help morph the 10-week pilot program into one that offers after school opportunities to students throughout the school year.

“That’s the goal,” said Bisson. She grew up in Barre and was a product of a different program — Cityscape — that was launched in 1998 and finally folded when the last of the federal funding that paid for it ran out in 2015.

Cityscape provided creative enrichment activities for middle school students in Barre, while the one Bisson and Cooley are now running supplies younger students with after school opportunities to socialize, exercise, learn new skills or just plain learn in a way that doesn’t remotely resemble the classroom experience.

Take fourth-graders Mikail Razzaq and Kayne Hammond.

Razzaq, who lives in Barre Town, and Hammond, who goes to school in Barre, seemed wildly surprised — and just a little disappointed — that the egg they’d encased in a plastic container survived being propelled down a ramp and into a wall and then dropped on the floor by Jen Farnsworth.

“We didn’t expect that to work,” Hammond candidly confided after Farnsworth, a special educator from Barre Town, proclaimed their experiment a success.

The secret to their success depended on who you asked.

“Bubble wrap and sponges,” Razzaq said.

“No confidence and a lot of jokes,” Hammond countered. “We made it in like two minutes.”

That’s apparently how long it takes to forge a budding friendship between two boys from different schools who eventually managed to break the egg that was the key ingredient of their afternoon science project.

“We didn’t know each other before,” Hammond said.

Neither did Alek Abdella and Aiden Lemieux.

While Razzaq and Hammond were secretly hoping to break an egg upstairs, Abdella, a third-grader from Barre, was in the library fondling the camper he and Lemieux constructed with Legos last week. Lemieux, a fourth-grade student from Barre Town already had moved on to the next project and was in the process of assembling a Lego airplane.

Lemieux is one of the program’s everyday participants. It’s “Junk Drawer Robotics” on Mondays, “Genius Hour” on Tuesdays, “Legoland” on Wednesdays, “Outdoor Sports” on Thursdays, and “Cooking” on Fridays.

Cooley said cooking was far more popular than either she or Bisson anticipated with 55 students showing up on the first Friday to make tortillas with pizza sauce and pepperoni.

“There was sauce all over the place,” she said.

While Lemieux is a daily participant, others, like Hayden Rock, Amalia Comolli, and Lilli Anderson, all third-graders from Barre, come once a week.

“Always Wednesdays, always Legos,” said Rock, who is about to start soccer and won’t be making the trip to Barre Town when the next session starts.

Anderson and Comolli will.

Anderson said she’ll be learning how to draw graphic novels.

“I like comics,” she said.

Though Comolli has gymnastics on Wednesday, she’ll be participating in sports — a daily offering for both sessions — on Mondays, Tuesday’s and Thursdays, and has signed up to explore the trails around Barre Town school on Fridays.

“Sounds fun,” she said.

The looming shift to Barre Town will require brief bus ride for students like Comolli, Anderson and Lange.

For Lange, Monday will be the new “Lego day,” and he’ll spend his Wednesdays giving gymnastics a try.

Cooley said she and Bisson have tweaked the list of offerings — retaining popular activities and adding a few new ones to give students more choices. The graphic novel activity is a new addition, as is digital photography, and the opportunity to play the math game Prodigy on Chrome books.

Bisson, who said she would have been “super-excited” if 75 students had enrolled in the first five-week session — said the actual number is 125, with 70 to 80 students attending on any given day.

“It’s a great start,” she said. “We’ll see where we can take it from here.”

david.delcore @timesargus.com


Local
Doty principal heading to Peoples Academy

WORCESTER — The timing is purely coincidental, but there is suddenly another administrative search to launch in the five-town six-school Washington Central Supervisory Union.

After serving as principal of Doty Memorial School for four years, Matt Young has announced he will be leaving Worcester’s pre-K-6 school in June.

With the search for an interim successor for Superintendent Bill Kimball just getting started, Worcester school directors will soon join their counterparts in Middlesex in the market for a new principal.

Earlier this year Aimee Toth informed the Middlesex board she would not be renewing her contract and last week Young shared similar news with Worcester families.

Young’s looming departure is literally tied to his desire to take his career to the next level. He’ll be leaving Worcester’s 60-student elementary school to take over as middle level principal at Peoples Academy in Morrisville on July 1.

“My decision to leave was based solely on taking the next step in my career, pursuing my passion of working with middle level learners, and working a little closer to my home,” Young said of the job he was offered earlier this month.

An added bonus, Young said, was that Peoples Academy includes a middle school and high school program — giving him the opportunity to work closely with another principal.

That opportunity doesn’t exist in Worcester, though Young said he will miss the intimate small school environment that does. It is one, he said, where establishing personal relationships with all students and their families, as well as the school’s staff isn’t challenging, but is rewarding.

Young said the same goes for the broader community.

“I am ... going to deeply miss the way that we have been able to leverage expertise in the Worcester community to create authentic and powerful learning experiences for our students,” he said citing the annual “All School Play” at Doty as a prime example.

“We have professional musicians and other volunteers in our community that generously donate their time to work with students to create a completely unique and student driven theatrical performance each year,” he said. “It’s a powerful and valuable learning experience for kids and I will miss being a part of it.”

While Young still has work to do in Worcester, he said he is excited about the job he just accepted and taking the next step in an educational career that has spanned 15 years and counting.

A graduate of Virginia Tech, Young got his start teaching physical education in Lake Placid, New York, for 10 years before coming to Vermont, where he taught briefly participated in two administrative internships and was hired four years ago to take the principal’s job at Doty.

The Worcester School Board hasn’t met since Young was offered and accepted the Peoples Academy job earlier this month, though members acknowledged the need to prepare to search for his replacement during this week’s special school district meeting.

david.delcore @timesargus.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

Raising the New Flag

Boy Scouts Logan Cross, right, and Victor Geno raise an American flag Thursday during a ceremony outside Barre Town Elementary and Middle School. The boys, along with fellow Troop 714 members Evan Cross, Derrick Chase, Chris Ferrant and Wesley Wilkin took it upon themselves to get a new flag for the school after they noticed the old one was getting tattered.


AP
Doctors' long-running advice: Get checked before a marathon

BOSTON — It was the death heard ‘round the running world.

In July 1984, acclaimed author and running guru Jim Fixx died of a heart attack while trotting along a country road in Vermont. Overnight, a nascent global movement of asphalt athletes got a gut check: Just because you run marathons doesn’t mean you’re safe from heart problems.

Fast-forward 35 years, and Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray is amplifying that message for marathoners, especially those who have coronary artery disease or a family history of it.

“Being fit and being healthy aren’t the same things,” says McGillivray.

He should know. Six months ago, the lifelong competitor underwent open-heart triple bypass surgery after suffering chest pain and shortness of breath while running.

As marathons, ultramarathons, megamile trail races and swim-bike-run triathlons continue to explode in popularity, doctors are re-prescribing some longstanding advice: Get a checkup first and talk with your primary care physician or cardiologist about the risks and benefits before hitting the road.

For McGillivray, 64, the writing was on his artery walls. Both his grandfathers died of heart attacks; his father had multiple bypasses; his siblings have had heart surgery; and a brother recently suffered a stroke.

Neither McGillivray’s marathon personal best of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 58 seconds, nor his decades of involvement in the sport could protect him.

“I honestly thought that through exercise, cholesterol-lowering medicine, good sleep and the right diet, I’d be fine,” he says. “But you can’t run away from your genetics.”

Aerobic exercise such as running, brisk walking, cycling and swimming is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and certain types of cancer, and it’s been a key way to fight obesity, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and more. Studies have shown those who exercise regularly are more likely to survive a heart attack and recover more quickly than couch potatoes.

But new research is providing a more nuanced look at “extreme exercise” and the pros and cons of running long.

In a study published in December in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, researchers in Spain found signs suggesting that full marathons like Boston may strain the heart. They measured substances that can signal stress and found higher levels in runners who covered the classic 26.2-mile marathon distance compared with those who raced shorter distances such as a half-marathon or 10K.

Only about one in 50,000 marathoners suffers cardiac arrest, the researchers said, but a high proportion of all exercise-induced cardiac events occur during marathons — especially in men ages 35 and older. The Boston Marathon and other major races place defibrillators along the course.

“We typically assume that marathon runners are healthy individuals, without risk factors that might predispose them to a cardiac event during or after a race,” writes Dr. Juan Del Coso, the study’s lead investigator, who runs the exercise physiology lab at Madrid’s Camilo José Cela University. Running shorter distances, he says, might reduce the strain, especially in runners who haven’t trained appropriately.

Dr. Kevin Harris, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, says he had a patient preparing for the Twin Cities Marathon who struggled to exceed 10 miles in training. The man’s family doctor insisted he get a stress test, and he wound up needing double bypass surgery to detour around dangerous blockages in his arteries.

“Running is good, and we want people to be active. But your running doesn’t make you invincible,” Harris says. “The bottom line is that individuals with a family history — especially men who are older than 40 and those people who have symptoms they’re concerned about — should have an informed decision with their health care provider before they run a marathon.”

That family history is crucial.

Fixx, whose 1977 best-seller “The Complete Book of Running” helped ignite America’s running boom, was 52 when he collapsed and died. An autopsy showed he had blockages in two of his heart arteries. He had a mix of risk factors. His father died at 43 of a heart attack, and although Fixx quit smoking, changed his eating habits and dropped 60 pounds, it turned out he couldn’t outrun those risks.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s late husband, tech entrepreneur Dave Goldberg, was 47 when he died while the couple was vacationing in Mexico in 2015. Goldberg had been running on a treadmill when he fell, and an autopsy revealed he had undiagnosed heart disease.

Former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is 49, has said his own strong family history of heart disease is what motivates him to work out regularly and watch his diet. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all died of heart attacks in their 50s.

“If you’re going to take on strenuous exercise later in life, and especially if you have active heart disease, it’s clearly in your interest to be tested and make sure you can handle it,” says Dr. William Roberts, a fellow and past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

McGillivray says his doctor has cleared him for Monday’s 123rd running of the Boston Marathon, which he’ll run at night after the iconic race he supervises is in the books. It will be his 47th consecutive Boston, and this time, he’s trying to raise $100,000 for a foundation established in memory of a little boy who died of cardiomyopathy — an enlarging and thickening of the heart muscle.

“Heartbreak Hill will have special meaning this year,” McGillivray says.

“My new mission is to create awareness: If you feel something, do something,” he says. “You have to act. You might not get a second chance.”


BTA Hotspot

April 12

Works on Paper

BASH fundraiser & reception by Teresa Celemin. Exhibit on display March 19 to May 4. Studio Place Arts. 802-479-7069. http://www.studioplacearts.com