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The 60-year-old Veterans Memorial Bridge will be the focus of a $750,000 feasibility study looking at ways to better connect aspects of the downtown.

Federal Grant Will Fund 'Reconnecting' Options for North Adams

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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An image from the 2020 parking survey showing how the bridge and the gray areas (parking) tends to separate the city. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A federally funded study of the downtown will have a singular charge: what to do with the Veterans Memorial Bridge. 
The bridge construction was part of an urban renewal project in the mid-1960s that leveled a large portion of the downtown and straightened and expanded Route 2.
"So what it's done over the years is it doesn't just present a physical separation between Mass MoCA and Main Street but it's created this narrative," said Jenny Wright, director of strategic communications and advancement at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. "It's a false narrative, that Mass MoCA and downtown are two different things. It's reinforced this us/them narrative."
Wright updated the Mass MoCA Commission on next steps for the $750,000 Reconnecting Communities grant the city was awarded in February. The application was a joint endeavor by the museum and city, through grants officer Carrie Burnett. 
The study will look at three options: repairs to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, developing an urban streetscape design that incorporates it, and removing it completely.   
"These are the scenarios that we've asked for in the study so that we have as wide a range of options to consider as possible, considering everything from cost to environmental impact to traffic flows to pedestrian flows, etc.," Wright said. 
The study is anticipated to provide scenarios for moving forward with ways to better connect the downtown area, including the museum. 
The projects done during urban renewal — including the overpasses and the Hoosic River flood control — were built for a different reality and a different priority, Wright said. 
"And so as they start to show their age, which they have, the question now becomes, how have the needs and priorities of the communities and do these interventions to help or hinder progress towards our goals?" she asked.
Judith Grinnell of the Hoosic River Revival noted that her organization was embarking on feasibility study as well. 
"We are stronger together and it's important that we work together," she said. "This river crosses the city in about eight different places, just within a three-quarters of a mile, so we need to talk about transportation and the river together."
Exactly how the grant will be implemented is still an unknown; an agreement isn't in hand yet and a webinar for grantees scheduled next week. 
Wright said the commission will get monthly updates, information will be posted on the city website and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition will assist by hosting community information sessions. 
North Adams was one of only two communities in the state and 45 in the nation to receive the funding.
"For us to be one of the recipients of this is a huge accomplishment and, frankly, unexpected. It felt like a little bit of a Hail Mary," Wright said.
The decision to pursue the application came from renewed interest in the Vision 2030 master plan adopted in 2014. The plan was three years in the making and provided a guide to the community's goals and vision.
Commissioner Eric Kerns said it was an opportunity to bring together all the other studies done over the years and look at all the good ideas comprehensively.
"One of the issues that we're running up against is the city was designed in a different time when it had different priorities and different needs," he said, echoing Wright's comments. "And in order to support the work that we want to do now to evolve the city and move it forward, we kind of need to have the physical environment match and support that work."

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Hundreds Still Without Power in North County, Stamford

A new pole is in place for a transformer on Main Road in Stamford. 

Update: The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., has issued another severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m. for Berkshire County, eastern New York and Southern Vermont. 

STAMFORD, Vt. — Nearly 18 hours after severe thunderstorms pummeled the region, hundreds of customers are without power. 

The latest update estimates is that power will be back on at 2 p.m. in North Berkshire. Green Mountain Power's outage map could not provide an estimate on power restoration.  
Many residents woke up to the sounds of chainsaws and generators on Wednesday morning as clean up from the storm continued.
Stamford was hit hard with trees blocking roads and broken utility poles. Some 499 customers in Stamford and Readsboro were without power.
A post from Stamford's emergency management director said conditions in North Berkshire were delaying power re-energizing in the Vermont town because it's sourced from National Grid in Massachusetts. 
More than 800 customers were without power in Williamstown, Mass., as noon approached. Tree and lines down along Main Street had taken hours for National Grid crews to address and hampered their ability to aid smaller outages in nearby communities. 
Williamstown Police posted on Facebook that because of the extensive damage to the electrical supply lines to town, parts of Williamstown may not see power until later tonight or possibly tomorrow.
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