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State helping students walk to Ross School in Braintree

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 24, 2013 12:12 PM

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Preliminary Assessment for Safe Routes to Schools

Shown here is the first recommendation - to improve pedestrian crossing at Commercial Street and Elm Street

Over $550,000 in sidewalk improvements and other pedestrian-related upgrades for Braintree’s Ross School are finally on their way after two years of planning with the Massachusetts’s Department of Transportation.

The plans are part of MassDOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program, which analyzes schools across the Commonwealth looking for ways to improve pedestrian safety.

As a "walking school," meaning that all of the school’s roughly 280 students live within a mile of the building, Ross School is primed for high pedestrian use. Yet according to an analysis done by the state in 2010, only 60 students have been walking to school.

In other words, Ross is the perfect applicant for the project, said Ross Principal Donna Bonarrigo.

“The improvements funded through the Safe Routes to School program will enhance significantly the ease and safety of walking to Ross, which is entirely a walking neighborhood school,” Bonarrigo said. “We especially look forward to the improved crossing at the intersection of Elm, Hayward, and Commercial Streets.”

Plans call for two main improvements to the streets.

The first would be to clear shrubbery to improve sight lights on the north side of Elm Street to better see vehicles on Commercial Street attempting to turn right onto Elm.

The project would also feature new, ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps, and a pedestrian walk signal.

Those updates are estimated to cost roughly $327,000.

Additionally, the state has recommended constructing a new sidewalk on the west side of Burroughs Road between Elm Street and Perry Road, and constructing a sidewalk on the north side of Perry Road between Burroughs Road and Bower Road.

The sidewalks would be five feet wide with granite curbing and would prohibit on-street parking on the west side of Burroughs Road.

“The project would also include reconstruction of all driveway aprons and adjustments to drainage structures within the project limits, new ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps, and new pedestrian warning signs and crosswalks at intersections,“ the state’s 2010 study said.

These upgrades are expected to cost $225,000.

The state has been working with the town on these upgrades since a preliminary assessment of the town in 2010, and it initially estimated that construction would begin within a year of its proposal in the summer of 2011. However, it has taken some time to pull everything together.

“Construction should begin over the summer or in the fall of this year. I'm not sure why it took this length of time - there are quite a few steps in the process from start to finish,” Bonarrigo said.

According to Sara Lavoie, Press Secretary for MassDOT, it all comes down to funding, which couldn't be scheduled any earlier for this project than 2013.

“The project timeline is comparable to other Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects and, in fact, Safe Routes projects jump to the head of the line but they cannot bypass the time it takes to complete the design, design review and the local right of way process,” she said in an email.

Other communities, such as Reading, are receiving upgrades on similar timelines. Reading’s project was initiated in Summer 2010. Ribbon cutting on the work is taking place this week.

As for Braintree, the 100 percent project design was approved on Dec. 21, and the project will be advertised for bids on June 29.

“We look forward to clipping the ribbon on this project this fall,” Lavoie said.

According to Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, the town is pushing for upgrades even sooner, so that the upgrades are in place before school starts in September.

Overall, having these improvements in place is incredibly important for the school, Sullivan said.

"This is unqiue in that it’s the only walking school," Sullivan said. "There is a lot of parental pick up..but for the most part it's one kid watcing another, brother and sister, [an] older sibling-type attitude walking to and from school. We’d like to encourage that in the safest way possible, and this grant will allow us to do that."

To see more about the project, click here.

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