Complete Streets Are Safe Streets

Kara Shea
Issue Date: 
July, 2019
Article Body: 

Norwood has decided to apply for a grant through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDot) to make roadways safer throughout the town.
The grant program is known as “Complete Streets,” and according to MassDOT, it is an initiative “that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes - walking, biking, transit and vehicles – for people of all ages and abilitie.”
These options could include handicap accessible ramps, sidewalks and crosswalks, bike lanes, and much more.
“Safety in this program is the number one priority. However, these modifications also have a large health, and environmental benefits as well,” Assistant Town Engineer Andrew Murphy said.
If residents are choosing to walk or bike a few minutes down the street, rather than hopping in their car to get to their destination, it is a healthier alternative; and also cuts down on the gas being used around town.
The Complete Streets Funding Program provides technical assistance and construction funding to eligible municipalities. Qualified communities must pass a Complete Streets Policy and develop a Prioritization Plan. The implementation process has three stages.
First, the town must decide they want to pursue the grant. This stage has already been completed as town selectman, town engineers, and municipal offices have decided it is a good idea, and will help the town tremendously.
Norwood is currently in the second stage of the plan, and the town held a meeting on Wednesday June 12th that was open to the public. Here, traffic engineers from the town, as well as the company that works with MassDOT, The Engineering Corp., came together to educate and address residents about the program. They explained what the system would do, and asked for feedback to help understand the needs of Norwood’s citizens. The input gained at the meeting will be used when drafting the proposal on June 28th.
Liz Oltman a director of transportation and planning with The Engineering Corp., noted that although her team does a drive around the town to scout out possible areas of improvement, it is always extremely helpful to get feedback from the residents. She explained that residents know the town better than outside engineers ever could, and when drafting the proposal, it is important to have as much information as possible.
The Complete Streets program is a grant program after all, and if the town checks off a lot of the boxes that MassDOT is looking for-(boxes like the need for crosswalks near transit stations, or ramps at fields for handicap access,) then the town has a better chance of being granted the money. If MassDOT approves the town’s plan, Norwood can receive up to $400,000 each cycle for enhancements.
During the meeting, Danah Hamzeh a traffic engineer with The Engineering Corp., worked with Norwood residents to determine areas that could use the development. The way to do this was by utilizing a map of the town. The engineers had residents use markers to circle and explain where they believed amendments could be made, and why they were needed.
Some of the places that were discussed was the bike lane on Nichols Street that leads up to the high school. This is due to the fact that around the high school there is a bike lane, but it is cut off in a way that is unsafe for the bikers.
There was also concern over the Bond/Nichols street crosswalk. To make this safer, the engineers suggested a narrowed roadway that has been utilized in other towns. This makes it imperative that cars slow down when entering the roadway, and therefore makes it safer for pedestrians when walking.
At the time of publishing, 60% of Massachusetts towns are enrolled in the Complete Streets Program, 50% have adopted the policy, and 25% have received funding for their projects.
In late July, there will be a second public meeting, most likely held in the same place as the first: the community room at the Norwood Police and Fire department. Then, on August 1st the plan will be submitted to MassDOT. The town will hear if the plan has been approved by August 30th, and by October 1st of this year, they will apply for the money.
By beginning the process of working with Complete Streets, Norwood will hopefully gain great enhancements for the town that will keep the citizens safe, without having to ask said citizens for more money to do it.