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Winooski residents protest one-way Barlow Street

WINOOSKI- During the week, traffic on the new Winooski roundabout during rush hour approaches gridlock; City officials are trying to find ways to alleviate the backup. Recently, they proposed making Barlow Street, one of the feeder roads, one way. But residents of Barlow Street and the citys fire department said no. In describing the problem on Barlow Street, newly elected Winooski Mayor Michael R. OBrien said that motorists were looking for cut-throughs. One of the alternative routes they have discovered is Barlow Street where there are frequent backups. Long lines of motorists inch their way south on Barlow to East Main Street, thus bypassing the even longer backup on Main Street, The city received numerous complaints over the past months concerning increased traffic, speeding vehicles and pedestrian safety issues on Barlow Street, according to City Manager Gerry Myers. In response, the city proposed making Barlow one way heading north. But no sooner had a hearing been announced on the proposal, than residents of two Winooski housing apartment complexes began signing a petition in protest. An open letter authored by Leatrice Martin of 65 Barlow, said that motorists were already wasting enough gasoline...just to get to the post office and library because of this ridiculous mess of the circular. As an alternative to making Barlow a one-way street, Martin suggested speed bumps. Approximately 60 residents signed the letter that was posted on a community bulletin board at 83 Barlow St., turning it into a petition. Next came the public hearing held on March 19, with about 30 turning out, Mayor OBrien said. Our city engineer Steve Palmer gave a brief presentation to the audience about the problems and a number of solutions that had been discussed at a previous public hearing held by the Traffic Advisory Board (TAB) in November. At that meeting of the TAB last November, residents in attendance unanimously supported the proposal to create a one way traffic pattern northbound on Barlow, Mayor OBrien said. But at the March 19 meeting, a wide range of street users including church, senior center, senior housing, and city residents that use the street regularly, voiced opposition, OBrien said. The Winooski Fire Department also spoke against the plan. The Council took no action and sent the issue back to the TAB along with other traffic control proposals such as rumble strips, re-installing a traffic light at Barlow and East Allen Streets, street narrowing, and creating dead ends to eliminate through traffic. Last summer the issue of pedestrian safety on Barlow Street was a major issue in the neighborhood when a young girl on a bicycle was struck by a south-bound motorist in front of St. Stephens Church. She suffered severe head injuries but survived. The motorist then lost control of her car and careened over an embankment, after crossing the church lawn, and plowed headlong into the Senior Tower Building at 83 Barlow. She also survived. After the accident, children were pulled off the street by parents and the level of concern for pedestrian safety skyrocketed. At the end of the summer with the completion of the round-about, traffic began to increase on Barlow Street as motorists tried to find alternative routes. It became increasingly challenging as many of the access roads at the west end of the roundabout were posted one-way. Mayor OBrien estimated that the number of vehicles traversing the roundabout on a daily basis was over 35,000 cars. Winooskis TAB will be studying the issue in the next month, in preparation for another public hearing in 30 to 45 days. Meanwhile, many motorists are circling the roundabout daily trying to figure out if the old Vermont adage that you cant get there from here has finally come true.

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