Editorial: Barrington sidewalk improvements taking too long

Posted 9/20/17

There seems to be no end to the downtown streetscape improvements in Barrington — titled "Village Center Connectivity" — which have resulted in detours, construction zones, orange …

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Editorial: Barrington sidewalk improvements taking too long

Posted

There seems to be no end to the downtown streetscape improvements in Barrington — titled "Village Center Connectivity" — which have resulted in detours, construction zones, orange barrels, yellow tape and a whole lot of mess for a very long time throughout the town’s most important commercial district. Exciting as it will be to see the finished project, the longer this takes, the greater the impact on too many of Barrington’s small, fragile businesses. 

For some of the businesses located on Maple Avenue, West Street and on some of the surrounding roadways, the "phased" construction project could pose a threat to their existence. 

When shoppers tire of potholes, traffic delays and lack of parking spaces, they begin to look elsewhere for their goods. Just ask Stan Szczepanek, who owns Quality Paint and Wallpaper on Maple Avenue with his brother Jeff.

"This project is taking too long to complete," he said.

Mr. Szczepanek also said he is worried that when the work is complete, Maple Avenue will be too narrow. The space sacrificed for sidewalks and curbing will cost drivers as they try to navigate the roadway, he believes.

Time will tell if he's right about that, but it's already clear that some local shops are hurting because the work is taking "too long" to complete.

Part of the problem could be the "phased" approach to construction. Crews began working on the streetscape improvements more than a year ago — the first phase focused on Wood Street. And while that portion of the project appears to be finished (for now), the hassles of construction have only shifted.

To be fair, not everyone is complaining about the work. Vienna Bakery's Joe Balasco — his shop is located at the corner of West Street and Maple Avenue, in the center of the construction — is excited to see the final product. 

"This project will be a much-needed upgrade to the area," he said.

It's also important to remember that the scope of the project expanded a bit (new sidewalks farther west on Maple Avenue than originally planned), which could be impacting the duration of the work.

That said, we hope the "Village Center Connectivity" project comes to a speedy conclusion so that shoppers can quickly return to their favorite stores along Maple Avenue. The longer this work continues, the longer motorists, pedestrians and customers steer clear of the small businesses of Barrington.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.