Town studying safer paths for walkers, cyclists, horses in West Newbury | News

WEST NEWBURY – Improved pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian safety along Route 113 near Page Elementary School and the Pipestave Hill Recreation Area is the ultimate goal of an analysis underway by the transportation, planning and engineering firm, TEC.

Any recommendations for infrastructure improvements will be incorporated into the town’s capital planning and budgeting.

As part of the analysis, representatives from the Page School administration, the Parks and Recreation and the Conservation commissions, Police and Public Works departments, Riding and Driving Club and Open Space Committee – along with Town Manager Angus Jenning and Elizabeth Oltman, director of transportation planning at TEC – participated in a site walk and safety discussion of the area.

Better connectivity between the school and the recreation fields, equestrian ring and conservation trails located across from the state highway was cited as a prime objective.

Improved accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists as well as for horse crossings were identified as needs, Oltman said.A lack of adequate visibility and high traffic speeds were mentioned.

Next steps for the project include data collection in April and May when activities at the school and the popular recreation area are at their peak. The plan is to conduct turning movement counts on a weekday and Saturday in driveways from 7 am to 7 pm, with automatic traffic recorder counts for four full days, including one weekend.

TEC will also research and evaluate information on crash data, grading and sight distances.

The study’s focus is the 10 to 15 feet of municipally owned land that creates a shoulder running along Route 113 from Coffin Street to Chase Street. The town is hoping to discern the viability of sidewalks and bike paths along the roadside.

“We are not quite there yet but that is something we would definitely consider,” Oltman said.

A land survey to verify the town’s ownership may possibly be needed, but DPW Director Wayne Amaral believes it will not be necessary.

The results of the safety audit will be presented at a future public meeting after which TEC will finalize its traffic safety audit report; and prepare and present to the public a conceptual plan of recommendations. The analysis is relying on funding earmarked in the current state budget so must be done by the end of the fiscal year in June.

Completion of this project tees up the town to apply for a Safe Routes to School Grant this fall.

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