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Armed with the unanimous approval of all five select board members, Chris Barrett, chair of the Pedestrian Safety Committee, left the March 9 meeting authorized to spend $80,000 from the sidewalk gift account for the engineering services regarding a safety improvement project. The services are related to the design between Nutting Road and the entrance to the Grassy Pond Conservation area.
“Having shovel ready projects allows us to take advantage, of ad hoc funding opportunities,” Barrett said. “For example, last year the town was able to leverage funds from the MassDOT (Department of Transportation.) Shared Streets and Spaces Funding Program to complete a pedestrian improvement at the Abbot School. That program had a very short application time period.”
On January 15, Bill Harman, and Don Galya, members of the Healthy Westford Committee, submitted a memorandum to town officials with a map of the “Core Westford Walkway” (see map below).
“One unifying principle we are considering is the idea of a pedestrian walkway extending through Westford from north to south, town-line to town-line. We call this the “Core Westford Walkway,” illustrated in the map below,” they stated.
Harman and Galya noted they are also “working on a plan to fill a walkway gap between the southern end of the existing sidewalk on Plain Road and the intersection of Plain Road with Depot Street. We are considering evaluating two alternatives for the walkway section adjacent to the Grassy Pond Conservation Area: (1) continuing the sidewalk along Plain Road or (2) diverting the walkway along a wheelchair accessible trail through the conservation area.”
“We are considering evaluating two alternatives for the walkway section adjacent to the Grassy Pond Conservation Area: (1) continuing the sidewalk along Plain Road or (2) diverting the walkway along a wheelchair accessible trail through the conservation area,” they stated.
Q&A with Chris Barrett
Editor’s note: Chris Barrett is the chair of the Pedestrian Safety Committee whose members are working to add sidewalks in certain areas of town. Pedestrian Safety Committee members work closely with members of the Healthy Westford Committee.
*Would it be accurate to call this a “pedestrian improvement project?” Usually these projects are referred to as a pedestrian safety improvement project.
*Where did the $80K come from? I heard the term “Gift Account.” The town’s Sidewalk Gift Account. The funds for this account usually come from a Planning Board decision to allow a developer to provide funds to this account in lieu of creating sidewalks in their development (such as in the case of a small subdivision of a few houses on a cul de sac) or in some cases in large developments the developers may be asked to fund this account to allow the town to extend existing sidewalks to connect to the new development.
*Would it be accurate to say this is a design project — not a construction project? Yes the $80K is only for design.
*What is the timeline for this project? At what point would it become a construction project? A construction timeframe is unknown at this point. Future budgets, the availability of staff resources, availability of grants all influence when this project could be constructed.
The town has not received a grant from the state’s Complete Street’s construction funding programs since 2016 and I think this project would be a good example of the projects that that program likes to fund. Also Massachusetts might see some money from Biden’s COVID relief bill.
Having shovel ready projects allows us to take advantage of ad hoc funding opportunities. For example, last year the town was able to leverage funds from the MassDOT (Department of Transportation) Shared Streets and Spaces Funding Program to complete a pedestrian improvement at the Abbot School. That program had a very short application time period.
If we did not have a shovel ready project available we would not have been able to submit an application to the program and be awarded funding.