One of the cherished attributes of our town is our compact village with its narrow streets, historic homes and easy access to various amenities, including shops, restaurants and the commuter rail. A top priority for many is to improve the safety of getting around in the Village area. The Bike and Pedestrian Committee and the Downtown Improvement Projects Committee have been champions of safety improvements for a number of years. Many citizens have expressed their concerns and ideas for making the Village more bike and pedestrian friendly.
Efforts to create a safer village environment are on-going. At their meeting on Monday evening, the Selectmen will be discussing the establishment of 20mph safety zones, improved road striping on Pine, School and Bridge Streets, and which of the 18 recommended “complete streets” projects should be advanced to seek funding from the state to implement.
While much remains to be done, good progress has been made over the last few years. The DIP created improved sidewalks, crosswalks and curbing in the core business areas on Beach and Summer Streets. Through the excellent work of the Bike and Pedestrian Committee, the Safe Route to School project was completed in and around Memorial School. With the help of concerned citizens, an activated crosswalk signal was added at the Summer and Spy Rock Hill intersection as well as crosswalk warning signs in many of the crosswalks on School Street. Voters approved giving the Selectmen the authority to set a standard speed limit of 25mph on all town roads which the Board has recently done and will be implementing this fall.
Through the work of the Complete Streets group, another set of recommended improvements are up for consideration. Most of the 18 recommendations focus on improving crosswalks throughout town and providing better bicycle lanes n town roads. New speed monitoring signs are proposed for the four entrance roads into town. Recommendations which need further study and additional public input include a small round-about at the Pine/Central/Bridge and Bennet Streets intersection, creating back-in diagonal parking on Central Street and the possibility of more one way streets as a way to lower traffic volumes, provide more on-street parking and accommodate bike lanes. For now, these ideas will undergo further review and public commenting before deciding if they should be implemented.
We can apply for as much as $400,000 to the state to implement some of the recommendations of the complete streets report. The Town is responsible for any engineering/design costs. A list of the recommendations can be found on the Town’s web site under the master planning section. Sketches of the proposed recommendations can be found here as well.
A safe, walkable village is a high priority. Advancing this goal will take continued efforts by citizens, the Selectmen, the DPW and the Police. One simple contribution everyone can make is to slow down while driving. Travel ways for pedestrians and bikers as well as vehicles, which is at the heart of the "complete streets" concept.