MANCHESTER>>The second public work session on the redesign of Depot Street between the roundabout at Route 7A and Richville Road will take place next week at the Park House.
The committee, put together by town officials and community members, will present six ideas for alternatives to make the Depot Street Corridor more accessible for bicyclists and walkers. The work session will start at 5 p.m. when information will be available for viewing. At 5:15 p.m., project consultants will present their ideas with a goal of determining an alternative or set of alternatives, according to the project information sheet.
The roadway lacks lighting, defined space for bicycles, and street trees, benches or small park areas. It is also noted that sidewalks are frequently used by younger cyclists, there are large distances between crosswalks, causing random street crossing and challenging transitions between sidewalks and existing crosswalks at roads, according to a alternatives report put together by the Broadreach Planning & Design group.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation administered a $520,000 grant for the overhaul, as well as $60,000 in local funds that was approved by voters in March, according to a previous Journal article.
The study conducted by the Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) in 2014 was due to the fact that the roadway was reconstructed in 1980 to maximize the flow of motor vehicle traffic.
Because of the abundance of retail on Depot Street, the study acknowledged how poor pedestrian conditions can hurt businesses. Pauline Moore, economic development coordinator said stores haven't complained, but have started to notice that it's an issue.
"Running across the street is not a very safe thing to do," Moore said. "They may not go across because of the hassle. The majority of the retailers have not said anything about it. As we talk to them, it's something everybody is concerned about and an improvement to the street is improvement to the economy on the street."
The amount of pavement from road to storefront and lack of grass or trees were other issues documented in the alternatives study. A suggested fixture includes a green median between lanes, that would help with water drainage, which is also a concern. The town also wishes to have more benches and small parks to allow walkers to stop and sit along that stretch of road.
"One of the things we find is that it's not a very attractive part of town. It has a lot of retail on that street, but it's not a very attractive street. It doesn't have the character the rest of Manchester has. What we want is more trees, park areas and benches so people can sit," she said. "Median of green is one of the suggestions. We have to remember also that it needs to be plowed and get fire trucks (access). We also have the fire chief and road maintenance director on the committee."
Moore said handicap inquire the most about changes to the roadway because of how wide the pedestrian crossing distances are. There are also excessively wide driveways and oversized intersections, as noted in the 2014 study.
Suggested alternatives that may be addressed at the Aug. 16 meeting include adding street trees and light fixtures, building a planted center median and reducing lane width to 10.5 feet as well as bringing the crosswalks up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
The work session starts at 5 p.m. at the Park House on 340 Recreation Park Rd. on Aug. 16. For more information, visit broadreachpd.com.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.