Town Sidewalk priorities determined

Above: The Town’s top priority for a sidewalk is Marlboro Road (Route 85), north of Route 30 (Image from Google Maps)

Last night, the Board of Selectmen heard the final report from the Sidewalk Construction Priorities Committee.

While there was no vote by the board, the committee’s priority list appears to have been adopted as the official priorities of the Town.

Selectmen asked a few questions about committee’s process and next steps. But they didn’t question any of the findings. And they didn’t object to Public Work’s Director Karen Galligan’s plan to use the list as the identified priorities for future construction.

So, here are the committee’s identified “top ten” ranked sidewalk priorities. (Actually 11, but 9-11 are a 3-way tie.):

1. Marlboro Road (Route 85), north of Route 30
2. Newton Street
3. Cordaville Road (Route 85), south of Route 30, north of Route 9 (causeway excluded)
4. Oak Hill Road
5. Richards Road (east)
6. tie – Clifford Street and Main Street (west of Sears Road)
8. School Street
9. tie – Flagg Road, Latisquama Road, and Parkerville Road

The list will be brought to the Public Works Planning Board next. Galligan plans to work with them to develop a policy for using the list.

The list could be used for asking Town Meeting voters to fund projects in the future (beginning next year). But another reason for the list and a policy, is to determine what to ask of developers. 

When developers build a dead end street, the Planning Board can ask them to build a sidewalk elsewhere rather than on a street that doesn’t need it. Galligan could only remember one instance where that was being done. She indicated that a policy and priority list would help make sure the right choice for the Town was identified.

Committee Chair Matthew Chase explained that rankings were based on totaled scores for ten, equally weighted categories:

  • Traffic volume (mainly based on the functional classifications – Arterial, Collector, or Local roadways)
  • Pedestrian activity  (mainly based on committee’s knowledge*, no data used, and if they knew of a destination people were walking to/from in that area)
  • Safety concerns (in addition to discussing issues they were aware of, referenced MassDOT’s database for “hot spots”)
  • Available right of way (based on GIS maps and Galligan’s knowledge)
  • Destinations (did it tie in to a key destination in town, especially a school?)
  • Connectivity (would adding a sidewalk improve connecting to another street with sidewalk?)
  • Environmental impacts (wetlands constraints, etc.)
  • Construction challenges (utility poles, retaining walls, drainage etc.)
  • Does it conform to town goals? (streets mentioned in past studies got higher scores)
  • Future need (based on planned development projects)

To avoid bias, the committee evaluated every street in town that didn’t have sidewalks already, except dead ends and roads with extremely low volume.

Chase said the committee decided to use ten categories (each with a grade from 1-10) so that the public could understand scores as out of a possible 100.

Members scored the streets on their own, then discussed as a group to come to consensus. The committee went through each category street by street, generally averaging scores. If someone’s scores were far off from others, they discussed it, then came to a consensus.

Although the group’s meetings were public, Chase could only recall two times that anyone from the community participated. One was a resident who purportedly presented his own vision of town sidewalks based on his experiences as a walker.

The other Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf bringing them a resident petition. That petition, pertaining to a street, was signed and submitted to the Town by residents a couple of years ago.

For a look at the full report with scores and explanations, click here.

So, what do you think? 

Are you surprised by the top rankings?

Do you disagree with any of the scores, or exclusions?

Post your thoughts below.

*Since the committee members’ knowledge was heavily relied on, you’d probably like to know who they were. The committee included the Fire Chief, Director of Recreation, Principal of Finn and Woodward Schools, Council on Aging representative, Public Works Planning Board representative, Galligan (Ex-Officio) and two citizens. (Read the report for more detail.)

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7 years ago

Deerfoot Rd. ?

Kelly Roney
7 years ago

It would be helpful to have more exact locations. For example, for Marlboro Rd./Rte. 85, if that’s north from the 30/85 intersection, yes, there’s lots of pedestrian activity, but nearly all of it is across Rte. 85, not along it, and thus not helped by sidewalks.

If the desire is to help St. Mark’s students get safely to the businesses in the town center (and I’m very much in favor of connecting customers to enterprises by walking), we may find that when there’s no snow, they walk across the green or on the paths through the woods behind the public safety complex. If the latter, School St. sidewalks might have more impact.

Yes, I should have shown up! There is a lot of material here, and I appreciate those who put it together very much.

Kelly Roney
7 years ago

Between where and where? All of Marlboro Rd. is north of Rte. 30. My assumption is Rte. 30 to St. Mark’s crossing, and that seems like a waste for the reasons I stated.

Do St. Mark’s students use the library? Maybe…

There’s also the note about the sidewalk that already exists further north, although it’s described as north of the railroad bridge, and that’s only part of it.

7 years ago

I hope the town decides to sidewalk all of our streets and use this list as the triage list. Start from the top and work its way down.

7 years ago

i honestly dont see a reason for more sidewalks! most people i see ride there bikes on the road, jog on the road, walk on the road, even when the sidewalk is there! total waste of useful money..

7 years ago

I hope they sidewalk all of Marlboro north of 30. During warmer months, there are a great number of runners that would benefit from this (and not just St. Mark’s students).

7 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

I couldn’t agree more Rachel. I am a runner and want to see every street in town side walked fully for people like me trying to exercise and train. And there are plenty more besides me.

Another Runner
7 years ago

First thing, missing is Main St. east of Sears to where the sidewalk starts at Parkerville. (maybe this is already happening with the main st redesign?)

Second, I agree if Flagg and Clifford are near the top, Deerfoot should be there too.
Putting in a causeway excluded for Deerfoot and Middle would put those streets into the top 10.

There also seems to be some subjective scoring in that chart and I don’t agree with not weighting the categories. Pedestrian activity and safety are by far much more important.

Overall, the list does get it mostly close due to some slightly obvious number fudging (future need category), but there needs to be an added common sense factor that bumps streets like Newton St down a bit and Deerfoot up.

Downtown Resident
7 years ago
Reply to  Another Runner

I agree that Deerfoot should have sidewalks. I see Trottier students, moms with strollers and joggers there. But Newton also has lots of foot traffic. The people who work at the medical building walk at lunch time and there are jogger on there as well.

7 years ago

I am thrilled that Marlboro Rd. north of Rt. 30 made it to the top. Many of us with tots on Marlboro and Ledge Hill, etc. find ourselves driving to the Library, to shops in town, and to the wonderful family events at the Community House and St. Mark’s field because the traffic on Marlboro is far too fast and reckless to walk a stroller. I had wanted to speak in front of the committee to lobby for this stretch of road but responsibilities for the aforementioned family prevented me from attending. I am so appreciative of the committee for recognizing the importance of walkability for this part of town. Thank you!

7 years ago

Any input into Woodland Road? I live in that area a good amount of pedestrians walk to the train station every day and night. They have no side walks from Rte 9 to Richards Road. Placing sidewalks from the Mass Pike bridge up to Richards Road would be wonderful.

7 years ago

Thank you to the committee for this work.
For those like Kevin who feel there should be sidewalks everywhere in town, I disagree. There should be enough sidewalks to allow those who walk, run or bike to major sites, such as schools, train station, downtown, sports fields, churches and community buildings. But there is an advantage to NOT putting sidewalks everywhere. Some streets are narrow and tree-lined and thus have construction issues or environmental impact. Sidewalks can also be maintenance nightmares. I know many runners prefer to run on streets, especially if they are wider or have bike paths, because the sidewalks become so uneven. Main Street near Parkerville is a perfect example. Seldom do you see the runners on that sidewalk, they always take the street. Consider the routes, too, that runners may realistically take. They do not need a circuit that includes every street.
Of futher consideration,when some towns have extensive sidewalks, they often require that homeowners keep their frontage sidewalks clear of snow and ice. This could become a burden for many residents. No, we don’t need them on every street. My neighborhood is a very pleasant wooded area with many many walkers and runners, little traffic, and no desire to add sidewalks.
I believe the less subjective approach that the committee tried to use may have been for the best.

7 years ago
Reply to  M

Believe it or not I have run every street in town so I still stand by my call for sidewalks on every street. I am not saying that it will be easy as certain roads with trees pose a challenge but I feel it is necessary. There are not a lot of roads in this town and almost every one leads to something you could call a major site. If I had a sidewalk in my front yard I would gladly shovel and salt to keep it clean and clear during inclement weather.

7 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin – could not agree more with you. As a runner myself – if I am on any busy road (85 or 30) I will ALWAYS use the side walk. Pretty much anyone I run with all will use the sidewalk,… So not sure who these runners are that run that prefer to run on a narrow street with no shoulder over sidewalk.

I think it would be great if they put in a sidewalk on 85 from Framingham road all the way to Southville road. This would be for the benefit of everyone in town – runners, walkers, kids, moms with strollers.

Kelly Roney
7 years ago

Good points being made here.

I had neglected runners, since most seem to prefer to run on the road. But Marlboro Rd. is too narrow and fast for that.

Sometimes that preference comes from the hardness of concrete sidewalks, which doesn’t really apply to most of our sidewalks. The unevenness of our asphalt sidewalks, though, is something I notice even as a walker, when I’m out at night getting my steps. Can we build asphalt sidewalks to a better standard without too much additional cost?

Ledge Hill is definitely an island, isolated by unwalkable streets.

For sidewalks along arterial roads, we may want to build wider. As an adult, I ride my bicycle in the street (although that means I can’t bike-commute the scant 2 miles to the office, since that road is too hairy for it), but it would be good to accommodate child riders on sidewalks in places like Marlboro Rd., and that means there needs to be room to share them with pedestrians.

7 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Ledge Hill isn’t an island. You can use the conservation land and the edges of the St Marks fields to come out right by the town hall. It’s just a short strip on Sears to reach the conservation land. I think there might even be a way to avoid Sears because there does seem to be a path into the woods at the Sears end of Ledge Hill. An alternative is to use School Street which is way less traveled than 85.

7 years ago
Reply to  JMO

None of those are stroller-friendly.

7 years ago

If the town invests in all these sidewalks, they should also mandate snow removal by the property owners with fines for non-compliance. I live in the Presidential, Sadie Hutt, Ledge Hill area and I know from experience that the sidewalks installed by the developers (I assume) are not clear unless the snow has melted. It can be a long stretch during the winter when the sidewalks are unusable because the plows come though and really pile it up. Maybe such a statute exists, but it certainly isn’t enforced.

Al Hamilton
7 years ago
Reply to  JMO

I do not believe we have such a by law on the books.

The closest I could find is:

[Added 4-13-1987 ATM, Art. 56]
No person shall displace snow from privately owned land to a public way or public sidewalk or so as to impede the operation of any fire hydrant.
Whoever violates this section shall be liable to a penalty of not less than $50 nor more than $200 for each such violation.

7 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Thanks Al, So as the town moves ahead to spend sums of money on sidewalks, how does the town ensure that new sidewalks will actually get shoveled so they are useable? I guess I am asking how do statutes get added? I would actually like to see the statute in place before any money gets spent on new sidewalks. Would existing sidewalks be grandfathered?

7 years ago
Reply to  JMO

JMO – 90% of the year, the sidewalks are free and clear. I would gladly use them during that time.

Al Hamilton
7 years ago
Reply to  JMO

I believe a town by law is all that is required. There are 2 possible avenues.

1. Ask the Public Works Advisory Board (I think that is the name of the body) to author such a by law (subject to the approval of the BOS)

2. Draft one yourself (you could use the above template) and get the 10 signatures required to put it on the warrant for Town Meeting. I believe you are too late for this year.

The great charm of Open Town Meeting is that it really is run by citizens and it is accessible. All you have to do is care enough to put in the work. I would be happy to help you draft a by law.

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