DPES continues to address pedestrian safety
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 01:10
The Department of Public and Environmental Safety (DPES) this semester has continued to make pedestrian and public safety on the Medford/Somerville campus a priority.
The department partnered with the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD), the cities of Somerville and Medford and transportation professionals to examine safety on campus, according to a Sept. 27 email that DPES Director Kevin Maguire sent out to the Tufts community.
DPES plans to meet several goals, including reducing the number of crashes involving motor vehicles and pedestrians, creating a safer pedestrian climate in and around campus and raising awareness about the importance of pedestrian safety.
“After accidents last year, we looked around to see what we could do to help improve safety and
actually to improve visibility to drivers as to where pedestrians might be,” TUPD Deputy Chief Mark Keith said.
Student-TUPD liaison Becky Goldberg, a junior, said that TUPD is dedicated to working with students to enhance safety on campus. Last fall, Goldberg and Tufts Community Union (TCU) senator Darien Headen, a junior, worked with TUPD Sergeant Darren Weisse to facilitate conversations between TUPD and the student body.
“Overall, TUPD is incredibly wonderful in taking what we have to say and really listening to it, being approachable and wanting to make sure we feel safe,” Goldberg said. “Their main purpose is not to get people into trouble but to prevent that from happening.”
The TCU Senate last February collaborated with TUPD to hold the first ever Safety Awareness Week, designed to address safety-related issues and start discussions about possible improvements on campus.
Goldberg said that she and Headen plan to meet with Weisse again to discuss holding safety weeks during both semesters this school year.
“Working with TUPD and ensuring all of our safety is something that I care very deeply about,” Goldberg said.
The intersection at Powderhouse Boulevard and Packard Avenue received specific attention following a series of accidents involving pedestrians in the spring of 2012. The city of Somerville implemented a number of improvements to the intersection in close collaboration with the university, Maguire said, including increased attention from the Somerville Police Department’s Traffic Unit, the trimming of tree branches and upgrades to traffic control devices.
In addition, “stop ahead” signs were installed on both approaches to Packard Avenue, and all crosswalks were repainted, according to Maguire.
Despite these changes, a student was involved in a serious accident at the Packard and Powderhouse intersection early in fall 2012, prompting the school to hire a traffic safety engineer in November, Maguire said. Nitsch Engineering, a local Boston engineering firm, studied the site of the accident and has assisted the university in determining how best to approach safety at intersections.
The university funded the employment of the firm, he added.
“The [university] president, the [Board of] Trustees, the executive leadership of the university and DPES are committed to the safety and security of our community, including the safety and security of community members as they travel on and immediately around campus, by foot, by bike or by motor vehicle,” Maguire said.
Before making recommendations, Nitsch collected information about vehicle travel speeds at peak hours, pedestrians crossing at peak hours, bike traffic, slopes and grades of roadways and intersecting ways, lines of sight, lighting and visibility. The data was then analyzed to develop a plan of action, Maguire said.
Although the firm could not recommend a full traffic light at the intersection since it did not meet the engineering requirements for that type of traffic control, Nitsch proposed the conversion of the intersection into a four-way — rather than a two-way — stop, according to Maguire.
“This recommendation was accepted and acted upon within one day by the City of Somerville,” he said.
Reconstruction of the intersection, including the installation of curb extensions on all four corners, was also encouraged, Maguire said.
“The extensions would move parked motor vehicles away from the intersection, ... force traffic to slow on approach to the intersection and reduce the amount of time that pedestrians are at jeopardy as they cross,” he said.
Keith said that construction at the intersection is expected to commence next Tuesday. According to Maguire, it will be completed by mid-November.
In addition to improving the Packard and Powderhouse intersection, Keith said that signage on other streets adjacent to the Tufts campus, including Boston and College Avenues, has been renovated.
“We went ahead and changed out a lot of those signs to upgrade them to the more visible, lime green florescent signage,” he said. “I think those high visibility signs really helped bring that to the drivers’ attention.”
Pedestrian safety initiatives will continue in the coming months with similar traffic engineering studies for the Powderhouse corridor (from Powder House Square to Packard Avenue), Professors Row (from Curtis Street to College Avenue), the intersection of Boston Avenue and College Avenue, the College Avenue corridor (from Boston Avenue to beyond Talbot Avenue) and Boston Avenue (from College Avenue to Harvard Street), according to Maguire.