The other day I dropped my car off to be detailed – a wonderful indulgence for a place where I spend so much time. The detailer is less than a mile from my house, so I drove out there, and walked back along one of Stoneham’s main streets – Montvale Avenue. As I did, I thought about what a missed opportunity it is that Montvale has never been looked at from a pedestrian’s point of view.
“If only” I thought, “Our awesome town had more money available to invest in sidewalks! It’s a little embarrassing that there’s no safe way to walk from the main express bus stop that goes directly to Boston, to our downtown.”
Well, I just learned that Stoneham has a clear-cut way to DOUBLE our sidewalk budget for the year. How awesome is that! Of course, nothing is ever as easy as it looks. Some folks on the Board of Selectmen are worried that Stoneham is doing too much awesome stuff (is that really possible?) and are unsure about whether we actually want the additional $400k in state money to build sidewalks. I know that *I* really want some better sidewalks. I am betting many other folks in Stoneham would too, so I wanted to encourage our Selectmen and ask them to work for this money.
To get the money, the town needs to:
1. Attend complete streets training (done)
2. Adopt a complete streets policy (One has been written, waiting board review)
3. Find a consulting company to do a study on our main issue areas and apply for a $50k grant from the state. (Done and won the grant. Trying to get board approval)
4. Complete study and submit projects to the state for $400k of money to construct.
Here’s some of what I’d do with that $400k, if I got to tell the selectmen what I want!
A key link in Stoneham’s public transit is the connection between the 345 Express Bus (that goes nonstop to State Street – it’s an amazing option) and our local 132 that goes to Oak Grove/Malden. If you imagine someone who doesn’t have a car, both of these are critical lifelines. Now imagine that person has a stroller, or is in a wheelchair. How are they going to get between them? I’ve definitely seen people in motorized wheelchairs actually IN the road in Montvale, which is a sign we have something wrong with our sidewalks. On my walk back from getting the car detailed, here were the worst spots for both safety and access.
1) The intersection of Maple & Montvale
Take a good look at this amazing piece of photography. You see what’s missing? Where are the crosswalks? HINT: There are none. This crossing feels very much like taking your life in your hands. There’s no place in it for a human not cradled in a few thousand pounds of metal. There are no crossing lights, no crosswalks. It’s a dangerous, scary intersection that completely isolates the 354 bus line from Stoneham. From where I was standing to take this picture, it was over a 10th of a mile in either direction for me to get to a marked crossing. I’m frankly surprised this is legal. This also makes it very unwelcoming for the workers in Unicorn to walk in to Stoneham center for a cup of coffee or lunch. Please note that anyone getting OFF the 354 gets off on this side of the street as well, so anyone looking to take the bus and then walk home has to navigate this intersection.
To fix: Well, crosswalks and crossing lights seem like a mighty fine addition to this intersection.
2) The housing complex at Mountain View Drive
This little section right here isn’t a problem if you’re walking. But imagine it in a wheelchair, or even with a heavy stroller. It’s hard to see, but that curb is HIGH.
To fix: sloped access ramps, like most sidewalks have.
3) Where did the sidewalk go?!?! AKA 91 Montvale
So you survive the intersection, you make it over the curb… and suddenly the pedestrian right of way completely disappears for 100 feet. Just to make it MORE fun, there’s an island that would push you directly into oncoming traffic if you were trying to navigate it with a stroller. This is another one where I’m mystified how this got approved. It’s definitely one of the harder ones to fix, too. We’ll need good advice from a civil engineer on how to make this less likely to lead to a sorrowful outcome for anyone trying to walk it.
To fix: ask an expert.
4) Still no sidewalk for you! (91 Montvale to Lindenwood Cemetery)
This dirt path shows something important: people are already walking this route. We have people traversing an unsafe situation. Some of them may be folks like me, who prefer the bipedal mode of transportation for health and enjoyment reasons. Many of them may walk because they have to walk. People walk this in the dark, and in the snow. It makes me sad that we’ve done such a poor job making it possible for them to do so safely and enjoyably.
To fix: pour a sidewalk.
5) The other side of the road (across from Stoneham Bank)
“But wait!” you say, “You’re just walking on the wrong side of the road. Surely the OTHER side is safe!”
I wish. Two things:
1) I still haven’t gotten to a crossing with a cross walk, so I couldn’t safely cross the road if I wanted to.
2) There are at least two spots on the other side of the road where the sidewalk also disappears. I’d argue I’m actually documenting the “good” side by walking on the northern side.
To fix: put in sidewalk where sidewalk belongs.
6) More for cars, less for people (in front of Montvale Plaza)
This stretch is a significant distance where there is absolutely no sidewalk on the south side of the street. During the evenings, there are often cars parked where sidewalk should be (another one where I really wonder how that squares with laws about such things). This sidewalkless stretch goes for almost a full block. I end up walking it often when we head down to Taj Indian Bistro, or back from a walk in Lindenwood.
To fix: remove parking, put in sidewalk instead.
So that’s my wishlist. I’d love to be able to walk safely to the express bus. I’d love to connect our downtown business with the hundreds of office workers in Unicorn Park. I’d love to make it so you can safely take a stroller down one of our main streets. And I’d really love it if our selectmen dig deep to find the extra energy to take the FINAL step to claim $400k to make it happen.
Do you have a sidewalk project you’d like to see in town? Can you buy into my vision? Please reach out to the board of selectman before the meeting on Tuesday, July 12 2016 to let them know. Or better yet, come to the meeting to let them know in person.
Here are the selectfolk contact information (in alphabetical order):
Tom Boussy –
firstname.lastname@example.org – (781) 832-0098
Caroline Colarusso –
(781) 438-5720 – email@example.com (she also holds regular office hours)
Ann Marie O’Niell – (781) 832-0098 (Ann Marie – I’d love to include your email!)
George Seibold – sorry, he hasn’t made any contact information public. There’s a form on the town website
Anthony Wilson – AnthonyWilson4Stoneham@gmail.com