Tag: EEA 16334

DeBerry-Homer Elementary School, Springfield MA Comment Letter

DeBerry-Homer Elementary School, Springfield MA Comment Letter

March 16, 2021

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: MEPA Office, Eva Murray
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Dear Secretary Theoharides:

WalkBoston continues to work in the City of Springfield where we have conducted 14 walk audits to date, nine of them around Springfield elementary schools. Before the COVID 19 pandemic began, WalkBoston was working with the Homer Street School to evaluate the safety and quality of the new walking routes students will take to reach the combined DeBerry-Homer Elementary School between Monroe and Union Streets. It is with this expertise that we submit the following comments on the DeBerry-Homer Elementary School Environmental Notification Form (ENF).

The Pare Corporation Traffic Impact Analysis discusses the proposed vehicular and pedestrian traffic patterns to be implemented with the construction of the new combined elementary school. Our comments are in response to the findings of that analysis.

  1. We applaud the idea of converting Monroe Street into a one-way street with vehicular drop off within (or along) the existing right of way. Too many new elementary schools devote much of their site to absorb traffic congestion with long drop off driveways and circles, which increases the total amount of impervious surface and removes the possibility of using the land for playgrounds, passive green space or other pedagogical functions. That said, a wider Monroe Street will invite drivers to speed during times when school is not in session, or when student drop off and pick up are not occurring. The parking queue shown on the proposed vehicular circulation plan is at least 1000’ long which effectively widens the street section from an 11-foot travel lane to a 20-foot wide speed zone. Additional traffic calming measures should be considered – such as textured paving or flex posts delineating the pick-up lane, speed tables, and/or additional signage.
  2. Given the proposed one-way traffic flow through the site – entrance on Union Street to the parking lot and exit onto Monroe Street – safeguards (such as a staff member at the driveway entrance) may need to be put in place to discourage drivers traveling westbound on Union Street from cutting through the parking lot to drop off their students either in the parking lot or cut into the queue on Monroe Street. Drivers accustomed to two-way traffic on Monroe may see this as the fastest way to drive their student to the front door.
  3. The increase in vehicular traffic causes many of the traffic signals around the school site to fail Level of Service (LOS) standards. The proposed mitigation at the State St/Catharine St/Eastern Ave/Wilbraham Road intersection is to adjust the signal phasing to include a longer green phase. While this may improve vehicular circulation, this will most likely extend the pedestrian wait time. Every effort should be made to reduce wait times to improve compliance with the WALK signal. Research has shown that pedestrian compliance rates drop significantly if wait times exceed 60 seconds.
  4. Additional midblock crossings are needed on Union Street. The pedestrian circulation diagram shows no midblock crossings between Eastern Avenue and Hancock Street (approximately 1,400 feet or ¼ mile). Students walking from the neighborhood to the south or from west of the school site along Union Street will not walk to the Union Street/Eastern Avenue intersection only to double back to reach the school building entrance. Midblock crossing locations with appropriate pedestrian hybrid beacons, signage and crosswalk markings should be identified based on student travel patterns and desire lines.
  5. The pedestrian circulation diagram indicates that bicyclists are expected to ride on the sidewalks to reach the school. While no sidewalk dimensions are provided, mixing cyclists and walkers on sidewalks is not a preferred option. Given the generous width of the existing travel lanes on Monroe Street and Union Street, the option of including bike lanes on these streets is preferable. The City of Springfield is in the process of updating its Complete Streets Prioritization Plan. Every effort should be made to coordinate with the bicycle network planning work already completed and in process when re-allocating space on Monroe and Union Streets.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. Please reach out to us with any questions that may arise from our response.


Stacey Beuttell
Executive Director