FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
Recent meetings, including a working session with business owners and strong advocates for pedestrian safety, have resulted in revised layouts to improve the safety of some of the important intersections in the heart of the Village. The Board of Selectmen will be reviewing these latest layout designs starting at 7PM as part of their meeting on Tuesday, April 16.
These efforts are part of the Town’s Complete Streets work. The term, “complete streets,” refers to making streets safe and accessible to all travel modes and for all people, taking into account the ages and abilities of individuals. For decades, roads were designed mainly to move vehicles quickly and efficiently. In an old village layout such as ours, the roads were established in the days of horse and buggies! Now, accommodating 18 wheelers as well as pedestrians and bikers within these narrow ways presents real challenges. And balancing the desires of businesses to have customer parking at their door while making crosswalks more visible and safer often requires trade-offs. The good news is that studies show that more pedestrian friendly business areas often provide a positive economic impact and through better management of parking spaces we can avoid any net reduction of customer parking.
The original designs for the new layouts for the intersections at Central and School Street as well as Beach and Union, provided shorter crosswalks with much improved sight distances. Parking was eliminated within the intersections as part of the design. The latest iterations still provide shorter crosswalks with higher visibility but do so without causing a reduction in on-street parking. This is achieved by eliminating a crosswalk at each intersection and realigning the remaining crosswalks so as not to eliminate as many parking spaces. While a few spaces must be removed, new spaces are added in the vicinity of the intersections resulting in a gain of a couple of spaces overall. Better signage for the municipal parking lot, making Church Street one way coming into the municipal parking lot and shifting parking to the other side of the one way portion of Union Street are part of the latest design proposal.
The improvements to the Washington/Summer/Sea Street intersection follow the second option that the engineers helped develop with the addition of making a mid-block crossing lower down on Beach Street near the bank and apartments. This intersection has not generated the same level of concern as the other two intersections given the lower potential impact on parking.
The forth project, the widening of the sidewalk from Masconomo Street to the Singing Beach parking lot, is still being developed pending confirmation of the existing town right of way. The plan is to widen the sidewalk but stay within the boundaries of what the town already owns, thus avoiding private property. Given the high volume of beach goers, a wider sidewalk, which eventually will extend back to Masconomo Park, will provide a safer path for all.
These new designs will be put out to bid to obtain final construction costs. Once we have the actual costs, the Selectmen will need to review the dollars available to see just what we can afford to complete at this time. Final decisions on projects and their layouts is anticipated to be made at the May 21 Selectmen’s meeting.