BARRE TOWN — Local officials have asked the Traffic Safety Advisory Committee to look into a potential sidewalk on Hill Street after a resident asked for one on his property.
Josh Howard owns a home between Trow Hill Grocery and a playground. In an interview last week, Howard said the store has an ice cream stand so kids are constantly walking back and forth between the store and the playground. He said he reached out to the town to see if it would be able to build a sidewalk on his property and was told the town didn’t want to build a sidewalk there because they didn’t want people to get the idea to call the town requesting sidewalks to be installed.
Assistant Town Manager Elaine Wang said last week the town isn’t against building a sidewalk there, but it’s not a priority right now because the town is focusing on other projects. Wang said sidewalks are expensive to build and maintain, adding that just because a resident thinks a sidewalk should be installed on a certain road, that doesn’t mean the project would make sense for the town. She said the Select Board would have to sign off on the project, and it would need to go through the budget process.
Howard’s plea got the attention of the board who discussed the project at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Board member Norma Malone asked if the sidewalk project was ever looked at by the town’s traffic safety committee or if it should be. Town Manager Carl Rogers said the board could refer the matter to the committee to see what it thinks.
Board member Paul White had been on that committee for 17 years and he couldn’t recall it dealing with pedestrian issues outside of speed limit requests, pavement markings and signage.
“I don’t remember specifically getting a request for a sidewalk,” White said.
White said if the committee does recommend a sidewalk there then there are other issues the town would have to deal with to install it such as right-of-way issues and engineering.
Rogers said when sidewalks have been installed in the town in the past they were grant funded. He said in terms of construction the sidewalk wouldn’t be “a great deal” because it would only go across one person’s property.
“The engineering that (White) referred to would be significant because there is a slope from the shoulder of the road down into that person’s parking area. And then closer to the store’s parking area there are utility poles that would be in the way,” Rogers said.
Malone said she travels that stretch of Hill Street frequently and she often sees pedestrians walking in the road there. She said since the playground has been renovated she’s seen groups of kids walking between the park and the store.
White agreed, but he noted there is a sidewalk on the other side of the store on Hill Street and it’s on the other side of the road so to connect that sidewalk with this proposed one the town would have to install a crosswalk. He said he was fine with referring the project to the traffic committee but the town will have to be prepared for whatever recommendation it makes.
“Because I don’t know why they wouldn’t recommend, strictly from a safety standpoint, I don’t know why they wouldn’t recommend a sidewalk there,” he said.
The board then decided to refer the project to the committee.