Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 04-01-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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10 CUMBERLAND APRIL 1-7, 2021 | VALLEY BREEZE | CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION BREEZE PHOTOS BY MELANIE THIBEAULT DENNIS VADENAIS, superintendent of the Cumberland Highway Department, stands on a newly opened access road that connects North Cumberland Middle School to Staples Road to alleviate drop-off and pickup traffic. CUMBERLAND – The creation of a new access road to ease increased traffic at North Cumberland Middle School is a perfect example of com- munity collaboration, says Principal Bethany Coughlin, who noted that drop-off and pickup traffic at the middle school has always been an issue but has worsened since the school reopened during the pan- demic. "It's a good example of town and school working together," she told The Breeze, adding that she's heard very positive feedback from parents since the road, which brings exiting traffic out to Staples Road, opened last Tuesday, March 23. Coughlin said traffic at NCMS has historically been a challenge with only one entrance/exit on Nate Whipple Highway, and with the increase of parents dropping off and picking up students since school has reopened, it has only exacerbated the problem. "One of the biggest concerns was traffic taking a left onto Nate Whipple," she said, especially with a line of cars inhibiting visibility for anyone taking a left. Last fall, school officials worked with town officials, including Mayor Jeff Mutter and Police Chief John Desmarais, to brainstorm potential solutions, with Coughlin stand- ing outside with Capt. Christopher Iozzi, of the Cumberland Police Department, and watching the traffic flow. Officials settled on creating an access route out to Staples Road, which has been used as an evacua- tion route and needed to be cleared anyway, she said. Now, cars enter through Nate Whipple Highway and exit via the access road to Staples Road, which provides clear visibility to take either a left or right onto Nate Whipple, Coughlin said, adding that it cre- ates more opportunity for traffic to remain constant without having a backup. "We deal with bus traffic, parent traffic, and staff traffic all at the same time," she said. The access road remains blocked off except for drop-off between 7:45 and 8 a.m. and pickup between 2:40 and 2:55 p.m., she said. Students who chose to return to school, start- ing March 16, are attending four days a week with Mondays as virtual learning days, and there is still a cohort of full-time distance learners, Coughlin said. Last Wednesday, she said, they counted 155 cars passing through for drop-off, compared to approximately 60 to 70 cars when school was still in a hybrid learning model. "It was a necessary improvement," she said, adding that it's made the process smoother, faster, and safer. "It seems to be working out well." Even when more students are tak- ing the bus again and the volume of traffic goes down, Coughlin said the issue will still be present, and they'll continue to use the access road. According to Dennis Vadenais, superintendent of the Cumberland Highway Department, crews dug out the access road last year, filled it in, and let it settle. He added that they regraded it and put stop signs and "do not enter" signs up to direct traffic flow. The road, he said, is approximately 300 feet long, and the ground-down asphalt they used "packs real well" and will withstand abuse over the winter. Crews also placed a few big stones near telephone poles to protect the wires and might paint them in the future to make them stand out more to drivers, he said. Wanting to be good neighbors, Coughlin said they hosted two meet- ings with residents of Staples Road to hear their concerns, which took place on Dec. 7 and March 18. They col- laboratively came up with the solu- tion to use the access road for exiting traffic, she said. Supt. Bob Mitchell said the work happened very quickly and com- mended Mutter and the Police Department for all their help with the project. "The beauty of all of this is the cooperation that we have grate- fully experienced with the town," he said. "It feels good when everyone comes together to help." With restrictions on the number of students who can be on the buses during the pandemic, Mitchell said that across the district they asked parents to help out by dropping off and picking up students. He said he believes that some parents are likely inconvenienced having to do this but added that he expects restrictions on the number of bus riders should be eased soon. Similar traffic easing projects have been done at Ashton Elementary School and Community School, he noted, but said that NCMS might have been more of a challenge because of its location on Nate Whipple Highway. Everyone working together was "able to come up with a solution that will improve safety of every- one going in and out of that middle school," he said. Traffic solution at NCMS a true community effort By MELANIE THIBEAULT Valley Breeze Staff Writer melanie@valleybreeze.com Vadenais stands on the newly opened access road designed to alleviate drop-off and pickup traffic at North Cumberland Middle School. Cars will enter the school property from Nate Whipple Highway and exit onto Staples Road. 3 Sherman Ave., Lincoln, RI 334-3937 Like our Facebook Page Kitchen SpiritS & FAIRLAWN GOLF @ Open tO the public Open fOr gOlf! Kitchen open next week-April 9th Indoor and outdoor seating available.

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