After improvements were made around the Hansen School in Canton, MA.
Photos courtesy of MassDOT Safe Routes To School Program


MassDOT Safe Routes Engineering Projects Shape the Attitudes and Decisions of a Future Generation

By Johanna Blue
MassRIDES Marketing Manager

    Throughout the Commonwealth, the Safe Routes to School Program is actively shaping the attitudes and decisions of a future generation. The implementation of GreenDOT policy and the progressive movement to put healthier initiatives into action by promoting active modes of transportation is paramount.  Most recently, MassDOT hosted the Moving Together conference to discuss alternative mode shifts which specifically target bicycling and walking as active modes of transportation. That is exactly what the Safe Routes to School program accomplishes, simply with a much younger audience.
    The Safe Routes to School program is a federally funded initiative of MassDOT. Established in 2006, the program supports community efforts to encourage elementary and middle school students to walk and bike to school by offering pedestrian safety education, funding for pedestrian infrastructure improvements and encouraging community partnerships between law enforcement, education leaders and public health departments.
    MassDOT currently partners with 575 elementary and middle schools with attendence reaching upwards of 259,000 students spanning 165 communities, which is more than 45% of the municipalities across the Commonwealth. Nationally, Safe Routes initiatives are serving 15% of schools, whereas the Massachusetts program is serving nearly 40%.
    An added benefit of the Safe Routes Program is that it encourages physical activity and healthy behaviors in an effort to curb childhood obesity rates. Between 1976 and 2004, the percentage of overweight children aged 6 to 11 years nearly tripled. According to the results of a 2010 Center for Disease Control’s National Obesity Trends Survey, between 1976 and 2004 the percentage of overweight children ages 6 to 11 years nearly tripled. Clinically obese children make up 17% of children nationwide.
    In an effort to curb this obesity trend and with an understanding that suitable school zone infrastructure in support of walking and biking varies from community to community, MassDOT employs the Engineering component of the Safe Routes to School program to create infrastructure improvements. Safe Routes to School partners, through an annual infrastructure assessment application process, request improvements such as the installation of sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, bike paths, traffic signals, traffic calming devices, and pedestrian crossing signs. Most recently, MassDOT completed Safe Routes engineering projects in Attleboro, Canton, Chelsea, Lowell, Reading and Scituate. The following improvements were celebrated this fall:

1. Thacher Elementary School Attleboro, MA
    Approximately 1,500 ft of new sidewalk along the easterly side of James Street from the intersection of Brownell Street to the intersection of Carpenter Street was constructed. A small portion of new sidewalk along the westerly side of James Street was also constructed from Maple Street to Carpenter Street.  New crosswalks and ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps were constructed at the intersections of James Street, with Brownell, Orange, Mulberry, Maple, and Carpenter Streets. The improvements included new pavement markings, new traffic signs, new pedestrian warning signs, and drainage modifications.

2. The Hansen School
Canton, MA
    Approximately 200 ft of new sidewalk with grass panel was constructed along Kenney Street to the intersection of Washington Street.  Approximately 1400 ft of sidewalk with grass panel was reconstructed along Pecunit Street from Washington Street to the intersection of the Galvin Middle School driveway located to the north of the Canton Little League baseball field. The parking lot for the baseball field was reconstructed to provide a one-way flow configuration with angled parking stalls and a defined sidewalk space. Pecunit Street was also reconstructed within the limits of the project and striped to depict 5 foot wide bike lanes. New ADA accessible wheelchair ramps, pavement markings, traffic signs and pedestrian warning signs, and minor drainage modifications were also included.

3. Browne & Wright Middle School
Chelsea, MA
    The project included sections of sidewalk (or bump-outs) to reduce the roadway section, wheelchair ramps, and approximately 150 ft of full depth pavement reconstruction at the school entrance along Walnut Street. Bump outs, wheelchair ramps and a push-button activated flashing warning beacon were installed at the intersection of Walnut Street and Fifth Street. The intersection of Arlington Street and Sixth Street was also reconfigured to include an additional sidewalk, wheelchair ramps, and a landscaped area. New pavement markings, signs, and minor modifications to the existing drainage system were also included.   

4. McAuliffe Elementary School
Community: Lowell
    Approximately 1400 ft of new sidewalk was added along the entrance and exit driveways of the school, beginning and ending at Beacon Street. In addition, a 100 ft section of sidewalk was constructed along Beacon Street to create a connection with the primary pedestrian crossing to the school. Also included was a 300 ft section of new sidewalk along the west side of June Street between the school’s exit driveway and Thirteenth Street. The school entrance and exit driveways were striped to depict 5 foot wide bike lanes. New ADA accessible wheelchair ramps, pavement markings, traffic signs, pedestrian warning signs, and minor drainage modifications were also included.

5. Parker Middle School
Reading, MA
    The project included approximately 500 ft of new sidewalk with grass panel along Washington Street, between Woburn Street and Prescott Street.  Multiple large street trees were preserved during the installation of 650 feet of new sidewalk along Sunnyside Avenue, between Prescott Street and Fairview Avenue. New ADA accessible wheelchair ramps, pavement markings, traffic signs, pedestrian warning signs, and minor drainage modifications were also included.

6. Hatherly School
Scituate, MA
    Approximately 2,800 ft of new sidewalk was constructed along Hollett Street from the intersection of Gannett Road to the intersection of Ann Vinal Road. New crosswalks and ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps were constructed at the intersections of Hollett Street with Gannett Road, Sedgewick Drive, Bullrush Farm Road, and Ann Vinal Road. Improvements also included new pavement markings, traffic signs, pedestrian warning signs, retaining walls, and minor drainage modifications. The project was coordinated with the Scituate DPW to incorporate their waterline replacement and a reconstruction project on Hollett Street.
    To achieve the goals of  the GreenDOT and Healthy Transportation Compact, MassDOT aims to create sustainable and comprehensive walking and biking programs through its Safe Routes to School partners and their communities. The creation of strong partnerships with community stakeholders, government officials and non-profit organizations is vital to fulfilling this goal. Together, these collective partnerships ensure today’s youth have access to safe spaces for walking and bicycling to school, educational resources on pedestrian and bicycle safety, opportunities for physical activity and the knowledge to prevent injuries, which will assist in the development of healthy attitudes and decisions towards active transportation.
    For more information on the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program please contact Samantha Fonseca-Moreira, Statewide Coordinator at Samantha.fonseca-moreira@state.ma.us or follow us on Twitter @SafeRoutes_MA or Facebook.com/SafeRoutes.MA

Mass Interchange, Winter 2013