City, Chelsea Public Schools secure funding to upgrade dangerous intersection

Each school day, hundreds of Mary C. Burke Elementary Complex students traverse Eastern Ave., venturing across the dangerous intersections at Stockton St. and Spencer Ave. The City of Chelsea, through its Department of Housing and Community Development, and Chelsea Public Schools secured a $1.5m grant through the Safe Routes to School Program to transform this intersection into a safe, welcoming, and inclusively designed space for students. 

With the goal of promoting walking and bicycling by students, relying upon a community driven approach that bridges health and transportation, the Safe Routes to School Program is a competitive grant program, administered by MassDOT. The City and Chelsea Public Schools, with consultations with school crossing guards, developed a conceptual design of pedestrian safety improvements that was selected for funding. The design calls for traffic safety measures, curb extensions to shorten crossing distances, new sidewalks and wheelchair ramps, street trees to mitigate heat and pollution, and a mix of signage, pavement markings, bollards, and other features to advance student safety. 

“We’re grateful to the Baker-Polito Administration for investing in the safety of our neighborhoods,” announced City Manager Thomas Ambrosino. “Through this project, the quality of life and public health of residents will be enhanced, which are critical to the wellbeing of our youth.” 

“The Safe Routes to School Program grant will allow us to transform how our students and families access the Elementary Complex, creating a much safer atmosphere for our kids when travelling to and from school,” commented Chelsea Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Almi G. Abeyta. “Our students are going to benefit greatly from this collaboration among our schools, the City of Chelsea, and the Baker-Polito Administration. I want to thank every constituent involved whose efforts brought the Safe Routes to School Program to Chelsea.”

A designated high crash location, under the federal HSIP program, Eastern/Stockton is a highly trafficked intersection, with a mix of heavy truck traffic, frequent speeding vehicles, and pedestrians.  

“Through the design phase, we’ll aim to create an area that balances the needs of all users, informed by the insights of crossing guards, students, and parents,” stated Alex Train, Director of Housing & Community Development. “All Chelsea families deserve safe, comfortable neighborhoods where they can walk, bike, and realize benefits to their health.” 

Although it borders a compact, highly walkable neighborhood, from a pedestrian perspective, Eastern Ave. is an uncomfortable highway, where speeding traffic, freight movements, poor visibility, and a lack of pedestrian safety measures endangers students and families. In addition to imperiling user safety, the existing conditions deter walking and bicycling, healthy modes of transportation Chelsea Public Schools seeks to encourage. Enhancing this intersection will necessitate deliberate, careful improvements that promote safety, while preserving operations. Over the next year and a half, the City will advance the full design of improvements with MassDOT. Upon state approval of the final design, the City will proceed with construction in fiscal year 2025, according to the schedule in the State Transportation Improvement Program. Throughout the design phase, the City and CPS will host meetings with students, families, crossing guards, and area businesses to solicit guidance that will be incorporated into the project.

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