By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The Department of Public Works has already been busy this summer with projects, but new for this year is the town’s participation in the state-driven Complete Street program.
According to MassDOT, a “Complete Street” is one that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes – walking, biking, transit, and motorized vehicles – for people of all ages and abilities. Designing streets with these principles contributes toward the safety, health, economic viability and quality of life in a community by improving the pedestrian and vehicular environments. It provides safer, more accessible and comfortable means of travel between home, school, work, recreation and retail destinations.
“I see opportunities to make pedestrian and bike movement safer, to make accessing the center easier,” said Westborough’s Complete Street Consultant William J. Scully, P.E., vice president of Green International Affiliates, Inc. “Our goal is to make things safe and comfortable.”
The Complete Streets program was rolled out in 2016, and around 250 towns and cities have already participated in the program.
The MassDOT Complete Streets Funding Program provides technical assistance and construction funding to eligible municipalities.
“It’s a funding source, and we should take advantage of DOT funding to get projects done,” said DPW Director Chris Payant.
The Board of Selectmen heard a Complete Streets presentation in March, and enthusiastically authorized submission of a grant proposal to apply to the program. The town received the grant, in the amount of $37,900. The grant provides funding for technical assistance to analyze their community needs and develop a Complete Streets Prioritization Plan.
“It requires you to create a policy, list, and projects for funding,” Payant said. “It creates this avenue for us to be thoughtful, systematic, and timely to make improvements to existing things or think about new things.”
Scully said one of the attractive parts of the program is that it has a quick timeline.
“We don’t want to get bogged down in years-long studies or data,” he said. “The plan process is pretty tight and simple. We are using the information that’s available and existing and reports and data to a large degree.”
The plan is usually completed in a few short months, but was held up by the pandemic shutdown. “But we are really rocking and rolling at this point,” Scully said.
Scully will work with the DPW to identify about 20 to 25 main roads to focus on, and they will look at things like crash data, how they are marked, crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, ADA ramps and more. A working committee made up of certain department and committee heads will meet a few times to review the findings and give input.
“This is a forcing function for us as a town to come up with a list of what we think is important for mobility for pedestrians, bicycles and cars,” Payant said.
There will also be an opportunity for residents to comment on the project and make suggestions regarding improvements through an online portal. Residents are urged to keep an eye on the town’s DPW page for more information.
The plan becomes a laundry list of deficiencies/needs eligible for finding to implement. This list, which is typically between 30 and 60 items, will be prioritized. Items might include things like designated bicycle lanes and parking, signal prioritization, radar feedback signage, street lighting, street trees and furniture, traffic calming measures, sidewalks, way finding signage, ADA/AAB-accessible curb ramps, and more.
Potential funding opportunities for each item will also be identified. Some of that funding is available through the Complete Streets program itself, and other funding is available through various other state grants and sources.
“It is an opportunity to do some positive things in the transportation world and be eligible to get some supplemental funding for projects,” Scully said.