WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

Senior City Engineer Peter Shumway speaks with a resident about intersection designs, while a member of the consulting team takes notes.
Reminder Publishing photo by Sarah Heinonen

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield is working to make its intersections and busy corridors safer, and it has been asking for the public’s help to do so.

On May 14, the DPW and the consulting firms that it hired hosted the second of two public meetings to seek input on changes to several vital but dangerous intersections around the city.

The meetings are part of the Safe Streets and Roads for All initiative that was established by the 2021 federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The city was awarded $15 million from the grant program, while providing a $3 million match. The funding paid for consulting firms to be hired to help redesign 10 corridors and 14 intersections and will fund the implementation of the final designs. The were originally 15 intersections in the program but work on one of them was folded into another project.

With such a large scope, the Safe Streets and Roads for All target areas were broken into two sections, with the intersections designated as the first to be tackled. The city contracted with Pare Corporation and Toole Design to help gather public input and propose safer intersection designs. Separate firms will work with the DPW on designing the corridors later.

Pare Corporation Managing Engineer Amy Archer explained that the goal of the program was to “prevent deaths and serious injuries. Increasing safety is the paramount concern.” The safety of the most vulnerable people on the road, pedestrians and cyclists, is a particular focus in the program.

Archer shared some of the data that had been collected, showing that in the past seven years, there have been 1,042 vehicle crashes at the identified intersections. While three resulted in fatalities, there were 792 non-fatal injuries. Furthermore, 81 of those accidents involved a pedestrian or cyclist.

Seven of the 14 intersections affect State Street. One of these intersections, with St. James Avenue, saw the highest number of crashes — more than 37% higher than the intersection with the next highest crash rate. St. James Avenue and Main, Maple, Oaklands and Walnut streets are other roads with multiple intersections slated for redesign.

“We’re going to be all over the city,” Senior City Engineer Peter Shumway told the handful of residents that came out to the public meeting. About a dozen people had attended the first meeting a week earlier.
Some of common issues that the team observed when touring the sites include faded, patched and cracked crosswalks, faded pavement markings, minimal bicycle accommodations, high free flow traffic speeds and wide turns that allow for high speeds. There is also a lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, such as missing ramps, pedestrian push buttons placed far from the crosswalk and a lack of detectable warning surfaces, which are textured surfaces similar to rumble strips for vehicles on highways.

Toole Design Engineer Preston Buehrer highlighted some of the potential solutions that can be used to increase safety at intersections. Crosswalks can be clearly marked or raised, as well as shortened through the use curb extensions that bring the sidewalk further into what would otherwise be a travel lane. Median refuges — a place to rest between two lanes of traffic — can make it easier for people with mobility issues to cross in the time allotted and allow them to check traffic traveling in the other direction before proceeding. Drivers can be made aware of cyclists and pedestrians with flashing beacons. Stops signs and limiting right turns on red lights can reduce the chance of a car hitting someone in a crosswalk.

At the meeting that was conducted on May 7, residents cited the need for more bicycle accommodation and traffic circles. They also requested the team assess the impact of making State Street one lane in each direction and how church attendance affects weekend traffic.

More than one resident commented that DPW Director Christopher Cignoli has made comments in the past that favored traffic flow over safety. Shumway assured residents that Springfield has been pivoting toward making “safely flowing traffic” as a focus.

The group broke out into groups that circulated though the room, giving team members input on potential remedies at each of the 14 intersections. People commented on crosswalk wait times that were too long, to which Archer said they could possibly remove the signals and raise the intersections instead. Another resident was sold on the idea of a traffic circle at the intersection of St. James Avenue and Magazine and Bay streets.
In response to a resident who mentioned that people have a relatively short time to cross the road, Buehrer showed a rendering of one of the potential intersections with diagonal crosswalks and signals that would stop traffic in all four directions. These would allow people to cross to the opposite corner without having to use a crosswalk in each direction of jaywalk.

A member of the team explained to a resident that bicycle boxes — green markings on the pavement at the head of a traffic lane — designates the area for bicycles, with vehicles stopping behind the box. It makes cyclists more visible and can be made to allow for light changes when bicycles enter the box.

Resident Linda Matys O’Connell appreciated the expertise that went into determining potential changes and the emphasis on safety. “When you listen to the consultants, it is clear that they have deep knowledge. It gives me confidence to hear the data.” She added that she hoped Cignoli would follow through on the projects.

“I think they make sense,” Kiara Nazario said of the safety improvements. Nazario, who had come to the meeting with her friend Yeriles Ortiz, drives around the city for work and said there was a strong need for lane markings that define whether an area is one or more lanes.

Buehrer said there had not been much pushback on any of the potential safety improvements, although people have had definite opinions one way or the other on some changes, such as traffic circles. “The treatments we’re looking at are tested and are proven safety measures,” he said, adding that he was not concerned about any unintended consequences of the redesigns.

When asked about the impact of construction work at so many intersections affecting State Street, Shumway said the projects were far too early in the process to know what disruptions there might be. Buehrer cracked, “With State Street, it’s hard to get worse.”

The design process for the intersection portion of the project will continue through winter and requests for construction company bids will go out after July 1, 2025.

The following is a complete list of affected intersections:
State Street/School Street/Spring Street
State Street/St. James Avenue/Oak Street
State Street/Concord Terrace/Montrose Street
Gaucher Street/Benton Street/State Street
Walnut Street/Union Street
Dwight Street/Maple Street/State Street
State Street/Chestnut Street/Maple Street
Street/Cortland Street/State Street
Main Street/Fremont Street/Central Street
Allen Street/Oakland Street
Pendleton Avenue/Pine Street/Walnut StreetMain Street/Taylor Street/Hampden Street
Belmont Street/Oakland Street
St. James Avenue/Magazine Street/Bay Street

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