SHREWSBURY – Town and state government officials and Al-Hamra Academy students gathered in the parking lot of the school for a long-awaited announcement on Sept. 7.
Thanks to $15.4 million in funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the recently-signed MassTRAC legislation, there will be a Rt. 20 corridor and intersection improvements.
This is the first project coming out of the Route 20 Corridor Traffic and Safety Study that MassDOT began in 2016 after neighborhood residents and members of the Al-Hamra community approached Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) with concerns about the stretch of Rt. 20 from Valente Drive to South Street, where Al-Hamra is located.
Al-Hamra student: “It pays to be brave”
This announcement comes after a crash involving a bus carrying Al-Hamra students and a tractor trailer in 2021. In 2019, an SUV carrying students collided with another car.
Sulaimaan Khan, who is an eighth grader at Al-Hamra, said he began attending town meetings to voice his concerns following a crash, which took place when he was in fourth grade.
“All I remember is speaking out for something that I cared about because it affected people I cared about,” Khan said.
A few years later, students were involved in another crash, which prompted more students to express their concerns about the safety of the road.
“Many more students showed up at the town hall meeting. Not only did they just show up, they spoke up,” Khan said.
He continued, “Over the years, students at Al-Hamra have written countless letters to our Board of Selectmen. Through this process, I have learned the importance of advocacy and speaking up for our community about things that matter to us.”
“It pays to be brave,” Khan added.
MassDOT Highway Division Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said the project has been in the works for a very long time.
This proposed project is said to address the lack of multi-modal transportation options by adding sidewalks and shared use paths. Additionally, the proposed project will add an eastbound travel lane, left-turn lanes, two roundabouts and a median separating Route 20 eastbound and westbound between the two rotaries.
Kane said she received calls from Principal Noor Ali, expressing concerns about the safety of drivers who were trying to take a left hand turn.
“I want to thank you all for your advocacy work you did, your parents did and the community did to make sure that it was clear that we needed to solve this problem,” she said.
Polito, McGovern weigh in
Congressman Jim McGovern has visited Al-Hamra a few times and said he believes the students are “the smartest in the world.”
“In Washington, after talking and talking and talking forever, Congress finally passed this major infrastructure bill, the biggest investment in transportation in our history,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the different types of vehicles traveling at various speeds at the “confluence of roads and intersections,” especially during peak hours, are “very complicated.”
“Sometimes complicated things don’t surface to the top to get attention because they’re hard to solve. That’s not the right approach,” she said. “The right approach is to take complicated things and difficult circumstances and learn from them and take action, which is exactly what students here at Al-Hamra have done.”
Polito added, “It’s a lesson you can take with you as you travel on your journey in life.”
There will be a virtual public information meeting on the project on Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. For more information on how to attend, visit https://www.mass.gov/event/shrewsbury-route-20-corridor-improvements-2022-09-14t183000-0400-2022-09-14t203000-0400.