Letter to Town of Belmont Re: Belmont High School Building Project

Letter to Town of Belmont Re: Belmont High School Building Project

WalkBoston met with the Belmont High School Building Committee, Belmont Superintendent of Schools, Assistant Town Manager and representatives from the Design Team after writing this letter. We discussed site design changes that promote walkability, and policies and programs that could increase the number of students walking and biking to school. Based on our meeting and the recent HS Building Committee meeting presentation (5-16-18) we feel that the Town and Design Team are now looking at the campus through the lens of people walking and biking to school. The proposed site plan now reflects pedestrian and bicycle desire lines, and the Design Team has committed to refining these paths as the design process continues. The Town is also studying reducing student parking and locating a drop-off zone on Concord Avenue.

WalkBoston will continue to monitor this project moving forward. We have also offered to be a resource for the Town as they evaluate parking policies and incentives to increase the number of students walking and biking to school. Thanks goes out to the residents of Belmont for speaking up for walkers!

Mr. Jeffrey Wheeler, Senior Planner
Town of Belmont
Community Development – Planning Division
Homer Municipal Building
19 Moore Street, 2nd Floor
Belmont, MA 02478

May 2, 2018

Dear Mr. Wheeler:

We are writing to express concern regarding the proposed site plan for the new Belmont Middle/High School building, specifically around the safety of students walking and biking to the school. We feel that the needs of those driving to school and the larger town-wide traffic issues have been placed above the desire to create a walkable and bikeable campus for the students and staff.

The site plan details the vehicular circulation patterns on the site including two drop-off loops, over 350 parking spaces, and a long access road that runs the length of the northern edge of the site along the railroad tracks. Other than simple pedestrian and bicycle circulation diagrams which show lines along vehicular travel ways, there is little evidence that the needs of students walking and biking to school have been considered. We understand that the site plan is only in the schematic phase, however we can tell exactly where to park and drop off students arriving by car, yet we can’t tell a student how to walk to school or where to park a bike.

It is clear that the proposed vehicular circulation pattern has been designed to absorb more traffic on site in hopes of relieving traffic queues that now occur around the high school campus. The “Implementation Measures for All Options” slide in the Perkins + Will presentation on January 16, 2018, lists improving queuing issues in 5 of the 9 measures. The access diagram suggests that walking, biking and transit access will also be improved, but the dashed lines along travelways do little to instill confidence that the needs of these vulnerable users are being taken seriously.

It only takes one dangerous intersection for parents to decide that walking or biking to school isn’t safe for their children. Designing the Belmont Middle/High School campus to accommodate more cars without safe, convenient ways to bike and walk will only promote more parents and students to drive to school rather than walk or bike.

We ask that the Town elevate the safety of and improve access for students walking and biking to school. Walkable and bikeable campus design is a proven way to reduce vehicular traffic, to improve the well being of students choosing a healthier way to get to school, and to foster greater independence and responsibility among middle and high school students.

We would welcome an opportunity to come and speak with the Building Committee or the Planning Board about the benefits of walkable campus design and to share more detailed comments on the proposed site plan. Our email addresses are listed below our signatures.

Thank you.

Stacey Beuttell, Deputy Executive Director

Laura O’Rourke, Development Director, Belmont Resident

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