Report details deficiencies of major crosswalks while offering improvement suggestions
By Mark E. Vogler
Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree said he didn’t realize how unsafe some of the town’s crosswalks are until he and a handful of town officials and residents participating in a walking audit about two months ago.
“It was revealing to me that a lot of the crosswalks we have go into open driveways … They’re just not set up right,” Crabtree said at a recent Board of Selectmen’s meeting when a discussion arose over pedestrian and traffic safety on Saugus streets.
“A lot of the crosswalks are in the wrong places and not set up right … It was an eye-opener for me,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree was referring to the Sept. 12 report titled “Saugus Walk Assessment, Saugus, MA,” published by the group WalkBoston, an advocacy group that seeks to make walking safer and easier in Massachusetts.
WalkBoston conducted a walk assessment in Saugus on Sept. 12 with support from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). Participating in the walk, along with WalkBoston staff, were Saugus residents and representatives from the Town Manager’s office, Town Meeting, Fire Department, Police Department, Planning Department, and Public Works Department.
“The goal of the walk assessment was to recommend improvements to the local built environment that improve pedestrian safety,” the introduction of the report noted.
“Pedestrian safety has been a longstanding concern in Saugus and several recent high-profile pedestrian crashes with motor vehicles have further galvanized the issue. The extension of the Northern Strand Community Trail through Saugus will mean even more people walking and biking locally, so there is a critical need to improve safety for all road users,” it continued.
“The Town is currently planning to dedicate more police resources to traffic enforcement, so the built environment improvements described in this report will complement these activities and further improve pedestrian safety. The Town of Saugus has already pursued built environment changes by applying to the state’s Recreational Trails program for a grant to improve six crossings where the Northern Strand trail intersects with motor vehicle traffic.”
The report, which is posted on the Town Manager’s website under the heading “WalkBoston Walk Audit,” made these overall recommendations:
- Use fog lines, bike lanes, curb extensions/bump outs and pedestrian refuge islands to calm traffic, reduce long crossing distances and improve pedestrian visibility.
- Install traffic-calming measures and advance signage/pavement markings on the approaches to the Northern Strand trail crossings.
- Improve conditions and locations of crosswalks and curb ramps for visibility, accessibility and ADA compliance.
- Create a comprehensive plan to improve sidewalks.
The walking audit also noted these major deficiencies:
- Excessively long crossing distances and wide vehicular travel lanes present challenges for people walking in Saugus Center.
- Several crosswalks along Central Street end in driveways and lack ADA compliance
- The parking lot at the Central Street trail crossing lacks a clearly defined path for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Wide travel lanes and wide turning radii present challenges for people walking at the intersection of Central Street and Winter Street.
- Wide expanses of pavement and sidewalk crowding at bus stops detract from the pedestrian environment in Cliftondale Square.
- Shifting the crosswalk to the other side of the fire station will reduce pedestrians’ and cyclists’ exposure to oncoming traffic at the School Street trail crossing.
- Crossing safety is a challenge at the intersection of Essex Street and Felton Street.
A bulk of the report included specific recommendations for improving the following: Central Street at Main Street/Hamilton Street, Central Street, Northern Strand trail crossing on Central Street, the intersection of Central Street and Winter Street just south of the trail crossing, Cliftondale Square, the Essex Street/School Street trail crossing, and the intersection of Essex Street and Felton Street.
Precinct 6 Town Meeting Member William S. Brown, who was among the handful of Saugus officials and residents who took the walking tour with WalkBoston, said he is disappointed with the scope of the walking audit. “The document was fine for what it was, but it’s not all that encompassing,” Brown said.
“I think there’s far more to look at than just five or six spots or intersections across this town. The town got this report for free and it didn’t cost anything. But it’s only scratching the surface,” he said.