Melrose has applied for state grant funding from the Complete Streets program to install 2,360 feet of new sidewalks in the Hoover School neighborhood and make other improvements to make it easier for students to walk or ride bicycles or scooters to school.
Currently, many of the streets near the Hoover have no sidewalks at all. A recent survey showed that only 41% of students who live within a half mile of the Hoover walk to school, as opposed to the expected percentage of 60%. Since 48% of Hoover students live within a half mile of the school, and 75% live within a mile, it makes sense to make it easier for them to walk (or ride bicycles or scooters) rather than be driven to school.
If approved, the $390,980 project would entail installing new sidewalks on Glendower Road, Whitman Avenue, and Park Street in Spring 2020 and Echo and Hawthorne streets in Summer/Fall 2020. The sidewalks and crosswalks will comply with all accessibility standards.
This is the logical time for the sidewalk improvements, as other utility work is planned for the area: The Melrose Department of Public Works is designing water main improvements on Echo and Hawthorne streets that are scheduled to be completed in 2020. National Grid also plans to replace gas mains and services on Echo Street, to remove leak-prone cast-iron pipes. Once the utility work is done, the roads will be paved.
One of the purposes of the Complete Streets program is to improve pedestrian and bicycle access by improving the infrastructure and removing obstacles, such as gaps in the pedestrian or bicycle ways. In 2018, using city and state funds, the city added sidewalks to Hancock Street and parts of Spear Street that did not have sidewalks.
The lack of sidewalks in the immediate area of the Hoover School has led to problems with traffic congestion in the area, and those problems have gotten worse as the school population has increased by 25% in the past five years, from 252 students in 2014 to 319 in 2019.
In addition to installing the sidewalks, DPW is working with school staff and the Safe Routes to Schools liaison to create walking and biking maps of the school area and observe the situation on the school grounds at arrival and dismissal times. That work will be completed this fall, and the city is exploring pedestrian and bicycle safety training for students as well. Once the new sidewalks are completed, a second survey will be conducted to see how these initiatives have changed the way students go to and from school.
The state’s Complete Streets grant program is a highly competitive program with participation from any city or town who has finalized a Complete Streets Prioritization Plan. The City expects to hear whether we will receive the funding later this year.
The Complete Streets program pays 100% of the cost of approved projects, with no matching funds required from the city. The city will pay for some other improvements that tie in with this project.