Friday, February 26, 2010

W.Main Street between Lumber Street and Wood Street

Running is a great way to become familiar with your town or any place you visit. When I travel, I wake up early to go running, and the morning jog orients me to the new surroundings.

When I run here at home, I often end up checking out properties that are on the agenda of upcoming planning board meetings, or just noticing architecture, sidewalks, traffic, crosswalks and other things related to planning.

For example, over the past few years, every time I run from the center of town headed west down West Main Street, I notice how great the sidewalks are, but how they suddenly discontinue without explanation, only to pick up again further down. Specifically:

  • Heading West on West Main Street, down the hill between Wood Street and Whalen Road, there is a modest but practical paved pedestrian path on both sides of the road, right up until Whalen Road, a residential neighborhood.
  • After Whalen Road, continuing west on the South side of West Main Street, the sidewalk is discontinued from Whalen Road all the way to the small office building past Berry Acres.
  • After Whalen Road, continuing west on the North side of West Main Street, the paved pedestrian path continues a little further but then also discontinues and picks up again only past the Golden Pond facility
  • Moreover, for most of the section of West Main Street where the sidewalk or paved pedestrian path is missing, the road shoulder is also narrow and deteriorated, so getting from the place where the sidewalk ends to where it picks up again a quarter mile later is pretty treacherous; you wouldn't want your children walking it.

Since both Ice House Pond on the North, and Berry Acres on the South, include trails for walking, it has always struck me as odd that the sidewalk does not continue to the point where the walking trails begin. From a planning point of view, completing the missing pieces of sidewalk would offer several benefits:

  • The residents of Whalen Road and West Main Street would have a way to walk from their residences to Berry Acres, to Ice House Pond, to each others' homes, or to the 77 W.Main shopping center;
  • The businesses and their clientele along West Main Street could get from the sidewalk in front of the business to the sidewalk beyond;
  • Pedestrians walking from anywhere in town on the sidewalks could actually access by foot the pedestrian uses at both Ice House Pond and Berry Acres;
  • Walkers, runners and cyclists along the Main and West Main corridor would have a safer time (the paved paths and sidewalks between town center and Whalen Road set an expectation which is left unfulfilled between Whalen and the sidewalk's continuation after Berry Acres and Golden Pond).

The Town Master Plan calls for pedestrian connectivity all the way along West Main Street, so the missing sidewalk sections do not appear to be from lack of planning. In fact, after inquiring about this, I found out that long ago, before the DPW was DPW, making W.Main Street accessible for pedestrians was a priority and that's how we got at least the portion of pedestrian path that exists today.

I know I'll continue to notice this whenever I run down West Main Street, and I'll continue to advance pedestrian safety issues on the Planning Board. Wouldn't it be great too if runners, walkers, residents, and businesses in the area - and all of us - could make completion of that pedestrian connection a priority, fulfilling our master plan and connecting the various uses along West Main?

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