By Curt Brown
NEW BEDFORD – The city is all spruced up after a messy winter and is ready to host an estimated 3,000 runners, families and friends in Sunday’s 34th annual New Bedford Half Marathon.
Capt. Joseph Cordeiro, who is in charge of police details for the half marathon, is responsible for protecting runners and the public along the 13.1-mile course.
He said 105 officers of New Bedford’s 253-member police force will be working four-hour paid details from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the race. The starting time is 11 a.m.
The police complement to the half marathon is the largest single paid detail the department handles each year, according to Cordeiro.
With the exception of a few police who will start earlier, officers will pick up their assignments at the Carlos Pacheco School and head out to them.
Cordeiro said the department will use four motorcycle police officers during the race, providing the ability to react to any emergencies that occur along the route.
Because the race encompasses almost every part of the city with the exception of the far North End, the event will disrupt normal traffic patterns and inconvenience the public.
Cordeiro said he hopes residents will be aware of the race and undertake any business or chores that have to be done either before or after the event.
He said organizers have advised local churches to tell their parishioners to consider attending an earlier service or Mass or perhaps even going to church on Saturday. Police are using the city’s automated phone call system this year, alerting people about the race and advising them to plan their day accordingly.
The city’s peninsula will be shut down from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., Cordeiro said. Cove Street and Route 18, South Front Street and all streets leading to the peninsula will be closed.
Intersecting streets along the half marathon route will be shut down with police officers, barrels or cones. No private cars will be allowed to cross, although exceptions will be made for emergency vehicles.
Police will open the streets to traffic after the last runner has passed the area.
Cordeiro suggests people get out and enjoy the race from viewing spots near Buttonwood Park, along Hathaway Road or downtown.
Zeb Arruda, highway superintendent for the city’s Department of Public Infrastructure, said city workers have been filling potholes along the route during the last three weeks for the safety of the runners.
He said workers started sweeping both sides of the route Monday and might have to do some touch-up sweeping in low-lying areas today.
Each day the sweepers collected about 10 cubic yards of sand, he said.
The department takes pride in doing its part to making the race a success, Arruda explained. “This way no one trips. No one falls and the city looks nice,” he said.
City officials and business organizations in New Bedford said the city derives a significant economic benefit from the race but said it is difficult to quantify.
Jennifer Dekkers, director of sales for Fairfield Inn and Suites, the 106-room waterfront hotel that opened in May, said earlier this week the hotel received reservations for about 75 percent of its rooms.
“For a weekend in March, that’s really terrific. I would say that’s a direct effect of the half marathon and all the activities that are going on,” she said. “It has been a great pick-up.”
City and business officials believe the race provides the city with an opportunity to shine and acquaint hundreds of visitors with its rich heritage and historic downtown.
“It’s a good opportunity to show off the city,” Mayor Scott W. Lang said. “It’s a good way to start the spring and the tourist season and we appreciate the energy everyone puts in.”
Diane Arsenault, executive director of Downtown New Bedford, said this will be the third consecutive year that all of the restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, retail shops, museums and galleries will be open for the race.
She said the hours of the different businesses will vary, with coffee shops opening earlier and the restaurants and pubs remaining open later. But all of them will be open from noon to 4 p.m. during the height of the race-related activities downtown.
The race brings in about 3,000 people, including the runners, their families and friends, Arsenault said, noting that many of them stay downtown until at least the end of the race.
“The restaurants are packed. There are lots of people walking in the streets,” she said.
“With a hotel and a number of businesses, they all have an opportunity to be patronized in a way they didn’t have before,” said Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
March 19, 2011 12:00 AM
By Curt Brown