A federally-funded project aimed at making the roads and sidewalks near Ross Elementary safer for students at the walking school is under final review by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and may begin this fall.
The $615,000 project is part of a program called Safe Routes to School that combines federal money and state resources with infrastructure improvement ideas spearheaded by local parents, schools and community leaders.
Officials from MassDOT expect to put the project out to bid in June, with construction possibly starting in the fall, spokesman Michael Verseckes said in an email.
All roads in the area will remain open during construction, though there will be some traffic disruptions, according to a report provided by the highway division of MassDOT during a public hearing last fall. The project requires 22 temporary and two permanent easements on private property surrounding the school.
It covers a distance of about 0.4 miles along Perry Road, Burroughs Road and at the intersection of Commercial Street/Elm Street/Hayward Street to the school entrance, the report says. The goal is to improve pedestrian and bicycle access and safety.
Along with a new 5-foot sidewalk sidewalk connection along the west side of Burroughs Road between Elm Street and Perry Road, and along the south side of Perry Road between Burroughs Road and Bower Road, the corner of Commercial and Hawyard will see major changes.
"The channelized right-turn lane and island at the northwest corner of the intersection will be removed, two ADA compliant wheelchair ramps will be included at each corner of the intersection and sidewalk will be reconstructed to approximately 6.5' in width," the report says.
"New pedestrian countdown signal heads with push buttons will be installed. A small section of 6.5' wide sidewalk will be reconstructed along the school’s driveway exit and new pavement will be provided throughout the intersection. At the school’s driveway entrance, new ADA compliant wheelchair ramps will be provided as well as new crosswalk pavement markings. New pavement markings, signs, and some minor drainage improvements will also be included."
General improvements will also include new wheelchair ramps, pavement markings, signs and minor drainage improvements that meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
When Principal Donna Bonarrigo came to Ross in 2007, she said one of her goals was to increase the number of walking students, as many parents chose to drop their children off because of the obstacles for pedestrians.
That year she met with the School Council, which decided that Ross should make a pitch to join the Safe Routes to School program. A preliminary assessment of the area was completed by MassDOT in 2010. Around this time, town officials also successfully implemented a truck ban during school hours to help alleviate concerns about walking.
"Anything we can do to improve safety for our walking students will be welcomed," said Town Councilor Sean Powers, who went to Ross Elementary and attended the meeting last fall. "Anytime we can expand access for those in wheelchairs... that’s some independence that’s very important to folks."
Also slated for construction this year is the East Braintree Fire Station. The station will be expanded to make room for a new ladder platform truck paid for in part by settlement money from Clean Harbors.
The town has set aside $300,000 for the project, and Rep. Mark Cusack, D-Braintree, attached $50,000 more on Beacon Hill to the current fiscal year's budget.
Mayor Joseph Sullivan said earlier this month that the town would work with MassDOT to coordinate the station construction with the Ross intersection project. If the station is not renovated in time for the new truck, Sullivan said it would be housed in the Highlands until East Braintree is ready.