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Mock-up of State Street redesign for pedestrian safety is planned

State_Street_redesign_plan.jpg
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
An aerial view of the block of State Street showing the Central Library and the parking lot across the street.

Temporary barricades will narrow the street to access impact ahead of permanent construction

With the arrival of the roadway construction season, work is expected to begin soon on making a busy section of State Street in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts safer for pedestrians.

To make it safer for people to cross State Street in the middle of the block where the Springfield Central Library is located, the city plans to narrow the street to one lane in each direction, install an elevated crosswalk, and a pedestrian-activated traffic signal.

In the next few weeks, a mock-up of the redesign will be installed so the impact on traffic can be studied before any permanent changes take place.

Last year, a traffic study was conducted on lower State Street where there have been pedestrian fatalities and close calls through the years. The study was underway when Gayle Ball, an employee at the Central Library, was struck by a car and killed on November 10th.

A few weeks later, Mayor Domenic Sarno announced the planned changes

“It is going to cost about $650,000, but this was never about money,” Sarno said. “It’s about public safety and making sure it’s done the right way.”

The traffic study for the city that was conducted by the engineering firm of Fuss & O’Neill found that an average of six pedestrians per hour cross State Street in midblock between Eliot and Maple Streets. The speed limit is 30 mph, but the study found it not uncommon for cars traveling on that section of the street to go as fast as 42 mph.

The proposed redesign will force drivers to slow to at least the posted speed limit, said Springfield DPW Director Chris Cignoli.

“People are speeding like crazy in the city of Springfield,” he said.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety advocates as well as residents of the Metro Center have urged for years the sort of safety improvements now being planned.

In the coming years, more people will be living along lower State Street as two long-vacant commercial buildings are going to be redeveloped into housing with nearly 100 new apartments.

During hearings on the projects earlier this year, City Councilors voiced concerns about pedestrian safety. The developer, Gordon Pulsifer, said he supported the DPW’s planned redesign of the street.

“This reduction of lanes will go a long way to slowing and calming traffic coming down that hill and the problem is the hill – cars just go fast,” said Pulsifer.

Springfield and Boston each had nine pedestrians killed last year – the highest number in the state, according to a report by the advocacy group WalkBoston.

The report said over half of last year’s 75 fatal collisions in the state between pedestrians and vehicles happened on streets with speed limits of 30-35 mph. One of the solutions WalkBoston recommended is to narrow lanes on busy streets.