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.)