Yarmouth panel needs help to see if sidewalks measure up

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YARMOUTH — The town’s Bike and Pedestrian Committee is looking for volunteers to help with a sidewalk inventory and assessment project.

Committee Chairman Dan Ostrye said the goal of a sidewalk audit is to make the town a safer place for walkers, runners, cyclists, and anyone who relies on a cane or a wheelchair.

The audit is being funded by a grant from the regional Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System.

“By getting a handle on the condition of the (town’s) sidewalks and ramps … we can then come up with a master plan for (sidewalk) maintenance and our capital improvements,” Ostrye said.

Volunteers are asked to commit to at least four shifts of two to four hours to help evaluate Yarmouth’s sidewalk conditions and how compatible they are with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The three parts of the audit include measuring sidewalks, curb cuts, and crosswalks.

Volunteers will measure the roughness and slopes of sidewalks using a special wheelchair equipped with GPS and Sidewalk Sentry App, developed by Georgia Institute of Technology, that will take a video recording to determine how the route compares to standards set by the ADA.

“Our (sidewalks) predate ADA requirements by a lot,” Ostrye said.

Sidewalk Sentry “collects rolling video of a sidewalk for post-processing, and records location-tagged gyroscope and accelerometer data for use in evaluating sidewalk quality,” according to Georgia Tech.

Two-person crews will measure pedestrian crossings mid-block and at intersections. One crew member will measure length, width, slope, and surface. The other will record data onto provided tablets.

Similar to the crosswalk evaluations, volunteers will measure length, slope and surface quality of every driveway that crosses a sidewalk to determine whether the sidewalk allows for a stable crossing for wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Ostrye said the audit has truly been a collaborative effort.

Tablets loaned to the town by AT&T will be used to upload data to Sidewalk Sentry. AT&T is also providing the town with the cellular service needed to transmit data live on the tablets into a master database.

Once the audit is finished, a team of graduate students at Georgia Tech will analyze the town’s sidewalk network using the coordinates, photos, and measurements compiled in Sidewalk Sentry.

“This is cutting-edge technology,” Ostrye said.

The Bike and Pedestrian Committee will then work directly with structural engineers from T.Y. Lin International Group in Falmouth to develop a network master plan for infrastructure development in Yarmouth.

“The project has to be done by the end of the year to comply with the grant,” Ostrye said. “(Which is) great because that forces us to finish.”

The Bike and Pedestrian Committee planned to have the audit finished by Yarmouth’s 52 annual clam festival, but now are predicting it will be completed sometime mid-August.

“It’s a lot more work than we expected and we need a lot more help than we have,” Ostrye said. “We thought we’d be done by now. Instead, we’re just getting started.”

The committee has received additional support from local businesses.

“We’ve reached out to the business community, and both Hancock Lumber and Patriot Insurance have said they will provide some volunteer support for us as part of their contribution to the community,” Ostrye said.

The committee also works closely with Alpha One, a center for independent living, whose mission is enabling people with disabilities in Maine to live more fully and more independently in all aspects of life.

“Our committee has had a long-term relationship with (Alpha One),” Ostrye said. “That group is specifically important to have participate in this project.”

Ostrye asks that anyone hoping to volunteer to contact him or Town Planner Alex Jaegerman directly.

“What I appreciate most is that, as we’ve had bumps in our process, our volunteers to date have been very patient and understanding,” he said. “That is what keeps me going.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Volunteers measure the slope of crosswalk ramps as part of the Yarmouth Bike and Pedestrian Committee’s sidewalk audit.