Traffic concerns focus of last Ashley St. school meeting
Date: 7/26/2011July 27, 2011
By Debbie Gardner
WESTFIELD The Westfield School Building Committee hosted its final public hearing on the proposed Ashley Street elementary school project at the School Department building on July 19.
Ward Two City Councilor James Brown, a member of the Westfield School Building Committee, said a total of 37 people attended the meeting, including area residents, members of the School Committee and school department administration, Mayor Daniel Knapik, Sen. Michael Knapik and Rev. William Wallis, pastor of St. Peter & St. Casimir Church.
Among the concerns raised by meeting attendees were increases in neighborhood traffic and student safety.
“We talked about stop sign concerns, cross walks, new sidewalks, how the Main Street project is going to have the new signalizing system from Cross Street so kids from the Meadow Street area will be able to walk across Main Street safely to get up Cross Street,” Brown said.
Brown said he mentioned meeting recently with Westfield Police Chief John Camerota about the placement of crossing guards for the new school. He said Camerota would use the next year and a half to evaluate the traffic patterns in the area and make those determinations.
Representatives from the engineering consulting firm of Fuss & O’Neill presented a traffic study as part of the meeting, projecting 126 vehicles traveling to the proposed school in the morning, with 103 of those being parents dropping off children. In the afternoon, the projected number is 70 parent cars, and a total of 86 vehicles with student pick-ups and staff exits.
Brown said these numbers did not take into account the potential that groups of children might arrive and exit school as part of before or after-school programs conducted by the YMCA or Boys & Girls Club. Those students would typically be bused to and from the site as a group.
“You’ve got a 20 minute window in the morning and again in the afternoon when its going to be the busiest, then [the area] will go back to regular traffic even when school is in session,” Brown said.
Increased truck traffic was a third concern Brown said residents raised at the meeting. He said site plans now show a service entrance off of Cross Street for deliveries and dumpster disposals.
Brown added that, in conjunction with the traffic commission, as chair of the City Council’s Legislative Ordinance Committee, he would “look at any restrictions that need to be put on surrounding streets for truck traffic.”
He added that the committee would also be determining if the area meets state criteria to be posted as a school zone.
“As long as it meets the state mandate, we can designate Cross Street and Ashley Street as 20 mile per hour zones,” Brown said, adding the city may be able to install flashing signs in lieu of “school zone” street signage.
The City Council last received an update on the school project at its July 7 meeting, where Dale Caldwell, project manager from Skanska USA Building Inc., said his company’s design team would submit final plans for the school to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by Aug. 19.
The council vote to appropriate $180,000 to acquire the first real estate parcel for the proposed school at its June 23 meeting.
The MSBA is expected to vote on the Ashley Street elementary school project at its board meeting in September. Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org