Pedestrian safety issues raised

WESTFIELD – City officials are working to resolve two pedestrian safety issues raised by a South Maple Street resident Wednesday at the Traffic Commission session.
Carl Vincent requested the commission have a pedestrian crosswalk reinstalled on South Maple Street, near the F.L. Robert convenience store and gas station.
Vincent said there had been a crosswalk at that location, but that when the road was repaved, the crosswalk markings were never replaced.
“I’m concerned about the traffic flow and the volume of foot traffic in that area,” Vincent said. “The neighborhood is changing. There are a lot of young people, as new families come into the area.”
City Engineer Mark Cressotti, a member of the Traffic Commission, said that when the new Cowles Bridge, linking South Maple and Mill Streets with Southwick Road, is constructed, the project includes crosswalks, with pedestrian traffic light signals, on both sides of the new bridge.
“The state DOT (Department of Transportation) is ramping up the design effort, but it will still be several years before construction,” he said.
Public Works Superintendent Jim Mulvenna, also a member of the commission, said the problem with just replacing the crosswalk at the former location is that it is too close to the curve on South Maple Street, just northeast of the existing bridge, and the location does not give adequate time for motorists coming off the bridge to stop for pedestrians.
Police Chief John Camerota, chairman of the traffic board, requested Mulvenna and Cressotti to investigate the possibility of installing a new crosswalk in a different location.
“See if we can move it further from that curve,” Camerota said.
Vincent, who recently attended a DOT seminar on pedestrian safety and crosswalk configuration at the University of Massachusetts, also addressed pedestrian safety at the intersection of Broad, South Broad, East Silver and West Silver streets.
That entire intersection was reconfigured as part of the $14 million Broad Street/Main Street reconstruction project.
Vincent said the DOT has changed its policy on pedestrian lights to increase traffic flow.
“The pedestrian light is concurrent with the green traffic light,” Vincent said. “What that means is that pedestrians get the crossing signal, then three seconds later, when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk, the traffic light goes green, allowing traffic to move.”
The problem is that vehicles turning right or left on the green light cross through the crosswalk as pedestrians are still crossing the street.
“I was crossing from (West Silver Street) in front of the post office to the (Rite Aid) drug store (on East Silver Street) and almost got hit by a commercial truck making a left turn from East Silver Street onto South Broad Street,” Vincent said.
“Motorists and pedestrians are used to the four-way stop on the pedestrian crossing signal which is what we have at the Abner Gibbs intersection (of West Silver Street with Pleasant and South Maple streets),” Vincent said.
Camerota said the issue is one that can be resolved by the Traffic Commission without the need to go to the City Council.
“This board can do something to address the issue,” he said, requesting the Cressotti work with the DOT and Lynch Construction, the road reconstruction contractor, to ensure pedestrian safety at the intersection.
“It has to be adjusted,” Camerota said Friday morning. “We can’t allow it to stay that way, because it’s a safety hazard.”

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