By Dan Miller, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Safety improvements for walkers and bicyclists could be coming to an area of Westborough near Gibbons Middle School, following the Select Board’s Nov. 23 decision to back a grant application to the state.
The board voted 5-0 to send a letter of support for an application for up to $1.5 million in Safe Routes to School grant funding.
Safe Routes to School is a program under the umbrella of the state Department of Transportation focused on safe ways for children to walk and bike in their communities.
School Committee Member Sara Duella explained in a presentation to the Select Board that proposed improvements would focus on the Fisher Street and West Street areas.
The plan envisions new sidewalk, curbing, crosswalks and signage along Fisher Street from Otis to West streets. The plan would also add crosswalks and pedestrian signage on West Street at Grant Road.
All sidewalk and curbing would comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
The plan also calls for pedestrian and bicycle safety markings on roads.
Officials additionally hope to use a portion of grant funds for other specific safety improvements in the area. That could involve replacing aging signs with solar-powered flashing beacons and installing speed reduction displays for vehicles.
The grant funds would cover design and construction of the proposed improvements. Under the grant funding timetable, planning for the project would begin in 2023 with work completed sometime in 2025, according to Duella’s presentation to the Select Board.
The amount of money potentially available under the grant could range anywhere from $200,000 to $1.5 million. No local match would be required, meaning neither the town nor Westborough schools would have to contribute any funds to get this grant money.
The formal grant application was due Dec. 1.
Westborough’s Department of Public Works is the primary applicant, with the Westborough Public Schools’ Buildings and Grounds Department being the co-applicant.
Westborough schools have already been participating in the state-funded Safe Routes to Schools program for the past five years, with an emphasis on encouraging students in grades kindergarten through 8 to bike and walk to schools.
“It is in our best interest to encourage students and their parents to allow the kids to walk and bike to school, but this helps us ensure we can do it in a safe manner,” Select Board member Ian Johnson said.