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Tag: safe routes to school

WalkBoston and MassBike comments on Waltham High School MEPA #16097

WalkBoston and MassBike comments on Waltham High School MEPA #16097

November 26, 2019

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: MEPA Office, Page Strysky
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

Dear Secretary Theoharides, 

WalkBoston and MassBike have reviewed the MEPA filing #16097 for Waltham High School located at 554 Lexington Street in Waltham, MA. 

We are concerned with changes to Lexington Street that are included in the environmental filing: in particular, a new design speed of 45 mph, the removal of bicycle lanes in order to add additional general travel lanes, and poor connectivity. The changes are at odds with the Waltham Complete Streets policy as well as the recommendations put forth in the Waltham Transportation Master Plan (TMP) from January 2017. As proposed, this project will make Lexington Street more dangerous for all Waltham residents, even motorists. The segment of Lexington Street where the changes are proposed is, in addition to an important north-south arterial for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, a residential street lined with single-family homes and their driveways where residents turn left across oncoming traffic, and pull in and out.

Three of our major concerns from the filing:

  1. This project has set a new design speed limit of 45mph on Lexington Street near the new high school; the street previously varied between 40 mph, a 30 mph advisory speed, and 20 mph school zone. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that the average risk of severe injury for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle reaches 10% at an impact speed of 16 mph, 25% at 23 mph, 50% at 31 mph, 75% at 39 mph, and 90% at 46 mph. The TMP noted that the Waltham Police Department identified speeding “as a significant issue” on Lexington Street. However, when a speed study was conducted for the high school project, the 85th percentile speed recorded was 41mph, leading to a new design speed set at 45mph. This does not mitigate the existing problem of speeding drivers on Lexington Street, but instead, legitimizes it. The purpose of this project should not be to maximize vehicle speed and throughput. On the contrary, the goal must be to create a safe access to the new high school for all modes and ages, especially the most vulnerable.

    A community should be safe for residents to get around, whether by walking, cycling, using transit, or in a vehicle. That safety and comfort is impacted by the design of our streets and intersections. All existing elementary schools in Waltham currently participate in the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program, which encourages students and their parents to walk and bike to school, something they hopefully would continue through high school. Parents also need to feel comfortable allowing their children to walk or bike to school. Many students walking to and from school will have to cross Lexington Street. A speed limit of 45 mph is not consistent with safe crossing by pedestrians, yet Lexington Street has the opportunity to see more students walking and bicycling to school in the years to come: a proposed new K-8 public school may occupy the site of the existing high school. With additional vulnerable road users in this area, it is important to ensure that anyone driving on Lexington Street is doing it at a safe speed, and that safe and comfortable facilities are provided for vulnerable users. The City should consider expansion of the 20mph School Zone on Lexington Street to include all three schools, or through creating a 20 mph “Safety Zone,” which was established in 2016 under Mass General Law Chapter 90, Section 18B.

  2. Existing bicycle facilities will be converted to shared-use lanes in order to accommodate turn lanes at the proposed intersections. This is not in accordance with the TMP recommended cross section for the Lexington Street Corridor, which included sidewalks and a consistent 6’ bike lane throughout the corridor on each side of Lexington Street, and has been implemented. Additionally, the TMP recommends any redesigns consult up-to-date design guidance. It is unlikely any guidance would pair an increased speed limit with the removal of bike lanes.

  3. Lack of non-Lexington Street connections to the site. If the high school is to be constructed at the Stigmatine site, paths should be constructed connecting it with residential neighborhoods to its north, south and west. These neighborhoods are within easy walking and bicycling distance of the Stigmatine property, as long as connections are established, with an opportunity significantly to reduce traffic to the site from Lexington Street and demand for parking. The initial plans show only access via Lexington Street, but supplemental filings include letters from the Police and Fire Department that reference potential emergency access routes to Lincoln Street and Jericho Hill Road that could be used by people walking or bicycling. These should be investigated further, as they could be an important option for encouraging walking and bicycling to the site, while excluding cut-through motor traffic. 

Potential solutions at the Stigmatine site are restricted by the additional problems that will be created on Lexington Street. We are hopeful that the city can consider more ways to use this project to back up the vision put forth in the TMP: “In addition to implementing physical improvements, easing today’s congestion and minimizing the congestion encountered in the future will require mode shift, smart land use planning, and mitigation on the state, City and private partnership level.” 

We encourage the MEPA office to take a deeper look at this project: the impacts are serious enough that it may require an environmental impact report.

Thank you, 

Brendan Kearney, Deputy Director, WalkBoston
Galen Mook, Executive Director, MassBike

Walkable school campus design is back!

Walkable school campus design is back!

photo courtesy of MA SRTS

With the design and construction of many new schools in Massachusetts, WalkBoston is busy once again working to ensure that the proposed site plans prioritize students walking to school. We just met with HMFH Architects and Crosby|Schlessinger|Smallridge to discuss the Arlington High School Building project this week at the request of some of our Arlington supporters.

Just a reminder that we published Walk to School? But how do I find the front door?: Strategies for designing a walkable school campus a couple of years ago. It’s as relevant as ever. Download your copy today.

Upcoming grant opportunities

Upcoming grant opportunities

We’ve highlighted upcoming funding opportunities that your community or organization may be able to use to improve walking in your area. Let us know if there are other grants that we should highlight!


Opportunity:

Winter City Vanguards / Wintermission: Bringing public life to winter cities

Funding organization(s):

8 80 Cities

Description:

Wintermission will coach three U.S. cities to plan, pilot, and implement creative solutions to increase social interaction and physical activity in public spaces during winter.

8 80 Cities is accepting proposals for Wintermission project partners in three U.S. cities. We will support these partners to become national leaders in winter city planning, design, and programming. These cities will become Winter City Vanguards, and work with 8 80 Cities and other partners to:

1. Lead a city-wide conversation about public life and social isolation in winter
2. Implement winter city pilot projects
3. Develop a unique winter city strategy

We encourage applications from teams of community leaders that are committed to making their city a vibrant, connected, and accessible place to live in winter.

Winter City Vanguard teams will receive:

  • Technical assistance to implement winter-based pilot projects and develop a Winter City Strategy
  • Up to $15,000 to cover material expenses to implement pilot projects
  • An all-expenses-paid trip for three team members to attend the Winter Cities Shake Up conference in Saskatoon, SK on January 23-26, 2019
  • Ongoing capacity-building and mentorship opportunities from global leaders in winter city building

Due date:

23:59PM Eastern, November 29, 2018.


Opportunity:

2019 Transportation Justice/Transportation and Climate Initiative Funding

Funding organization(s):

Transportation for Massachusetts

Description:

As a key element of our work on Transportation and Climate, Transportation for Massachusetts is seeking proposals to advance work at the intersection of transportation access and social justice. We expect to offer between 10 and 20 one-time grants ranging from $7,500 to $10,000 for projects starting in January 2019.

This funding is made possible through a grant from the Barr Foundation to support efforts to promote transportation justice and climate resiliency.

Due date:

11:59PM Eastern, November 30, 2018.


Funding opportunity:

The Safe Routes to Parks Activating Communities program

Funding organization(s):

Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Description:

Grantee communities will receive training, individualized consultation and technical assistance, connection with peer communities to learn from one another, an in-person workshop in their community, as well as grants of $12,500 each to begin the implementation of the Safe Routes to Parks action plan. At the end of the grant period, awarded communities will have a customized action plan to improve safe, equitable local park access that includes ideas for how to fund and sustain their efforts and will have implemented at least one action from the plan.

Due date:

11:59PM Pacific, December 10, 2018.


Opportunity:

Commonwealth Places Grant

Funding organization(s):

The program seeks to engage and mobilize community members to make individual contributions through a crowdfunding platform with the incentive of a dollar-for-dollar funding match of up to $50,000 from MassDevelopment if the crowdfunding goal is reached within 60 days.

Description:

The Commonwealth Places program aims to engage and mobilize community members to make individual contributions through a crowdfunding platform, with the incentive of a dollar-for-dollar funding match (up to $50,000) from MassDevelopment if the crowdfunding goal is reached within 60 days. Through its first two rounds, Commonwealth Places has launched fifty projects in Massachusetts, with MassDevelopment providing more than $1.4 million in matching funds. Projects have included main street improvement projects in North Adams, Wakefield, and Hyannis; large scale mural projects and public art installations in Lynn, Salem, and Worcester; and pop-up retail activations in Ashland, Boston, Brockton, and Lowell, among others.

Due date:

Applications for the third round will be reviewed on a rolling basis with a deadline of midnight on December 21, 2018.


Funding opportunity:

MassTrails Grant program

Funding organization(s):

MassTrails Grants are funded through two different sources:

  • Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants are federally funded through the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), administered at the State level, providing funding for the development and maintenance of recreational trail projects. Both motorized and non-motorized trail projects qualify for assistance.
  • Commonwealth Trails grants are supported by the state’s annual Capital Investment Plan and aim to help communities design, create and maintain off-road shared-use pathway connections between where Massachusetts residents live, learn, work, shop, and recreate, especially by building out the longer distance regional networks of multi-use pathways across the state and filling in critical gaps in existing networks, or overcoming current barriers to connectivity.

Description:

MassTrails provides grants to support recreational trail and shared-use pathway projects across the Commonwealth. Grant amounts are dependent on the project and its needs, but generally range from $10,000 to $100,000 with grants of up to $300,000 awarded to high priority projects.

Eligible grant activities include project development, design, engineering, permitting, construction, and maintenance of recreational trails, shared use pathways, and the amenities that support trails.

MassTrails grants are REIMBURSABLE, meaning grantees must first pay for expenditures themselves and then submit for reimbursement using the required documentation.

MassTrails grants are MATCHING grants and require that proponents provide a minimum of 20% of the total project cost. Projects with higher match commitments will be given greater consideration.

Eligible projects require documented land owner permission and community support.

MassTrails grants are reviewed and recommended by the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board (MARTAB) and the Commonwealth’s Inter-Agency Trails Team.

Due date:

February 1, 2019.

Pedestrian Safety Discussion in Randolph

Pedestrian Safety Discussion in Randolph

On September 25, 2018, WalkBoston and municipal staff from the Town of Randolph met to discuss pedestrian safety in Randolph as part of the EOPSS Pedestrian Safety Planning Initiative. The main concerns expressed in our discussion included safety at specific locations/corridors, pedestrian safety at bus stops, and the safety of school children (particularly high school students) walking, biking and riding transit to school.

Read the meeting notes here:

WalkBoston-RandolphMtgReport

Wicked Local Belmont – Keep our students safe

Wicked Local Belmont – Keep our students safe

Wicked Local Belmont: “Keep our students safe
Opinion

We are writing to express our concern about student safety in the proposed design for the new Belmont High School. Over the past several months, the School Building Committee has sought input from Belmont residents on the inside design of the building as well as the exterior traffic and parking plans. The Building Committee met with community members, the Traffic Advisory Committee, and the Planning Board as well as Safe Routes to Schools and Walk Boston — organizations that advise communities on how best to design access.

Posted June 7, 2018