Belmont’s Snow Emergency Parking Ban Ends At 10 PM Thursday; Sidewalks Cleared By 8 PM Friday

Photo: Start diggin’

Belmont’s snow emergency parking ban will end effective at 10 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 17, according to an email from the Department of Public Works.

Sidewalks Need To Be Cleared By 8 p.m. Friday

The Office of Community Development is reminding residents that Belmont’s residential snow removal bylaw requires sidewalks along residential property to be cleared of snow and ice by the day after a storm ends. With regards to today’s storm, snow and ice should be cleared or treated from sidewalks to a width of at least 36 inches by tomorrow night, Friday, Dec. 18. 

“We appreciate your attention to this very important public safety matter. Please refer to the town’s web site for further information regarding winter weather and the town’s snow removal bylaw,” said the OCD news release

If you have any questions, contact the Belmont Office of Community Development at 617-993-2650 during normal business hours.

The Grass To Be Greener Along Sidewalks As Town Focuses On Separating People, Cars

Photo: Along Bartlett Avenue.

Grass is good, according to Belmont Office of Community Development Director Glenn Clancy.

No, the longtime town engineer is not expressing his opinion on the future of marijuana sales in Belmont, but rather the grass strip between sidewalks and the roadways which are located on a majority of the town’s byways.

Now under a new approach prompted by the complaints of residents along Bartlett Avenue in the PQ Park neighborhood, the 10 percent of roads lacking a vegetative median can expect a greenway within five years, Clancy told the Belmont Board of Selectmen at its Monday, March 12 meeting.

The new initiative is a change in the town’s current sidewalk policy, said Selectman Adam Dash, coming after a comprehensive study rating the town’s sidewalks – which showed a majority of concrete paths were in good condition – was presented in the fall and after the public voiced concerns that walkways were being neglected in favor of roadway repair. 

The new policy, written by Clancy, will address the real issue facing not just the residents on Bartlett Avenue but throughout town is “the lack of adequate separation between the roadway and the sidewalks.”

After Bartlett Avenue was reconstructed, there was no buffer between the roadway and sidewalk which allowed vehicles to park or even drive onto the walkway, posing a dangerous condition for pedestrians especially so close to the Butler Elementary School.

In his research, Clancy found that the vast majority of streets have some curbing – either asphalt or granite – or/ and including a grass shoulder, as seen on most neighborhood side streets, which separates the road and sidewalk. 

“What I came to realize is the importance of that shoulder treatment,” said Clancy, noting that Bartlett Avenue only has an asphalt shoulder. “And that shoulder treatment must provide a buffer for pedestrians.”

He noted that only grass strip barriers without a curb do an excellent job keeping cars from creeping onto sidewalks. Grass also allow for trees to be planted in the barrier adding an “additional element as a buffer between automobiles and the sidewalk.”

In the new policy, “under no circumstances is an asphalt shoulder ever a good idea and that is the condition we are trying to get to the most,” Clancy said.

Clancy told the board that of the town’s 400 roadway “segments” (basically the road between intersections), only 10 percent or 40 portions of streets “have the need for either granite curbing because they are a major road (Cross Street and segments of Grove and School streets) … and 30 neighborhood streets that have asphalt shoulders where we want to reestablish [barriers].”

With the scope of work established, Clancy’s most significant question was funding. He told the board with updated data on roadway and sidewalk conditions and has made a considerable dent (of nearly 50 percent) in the cost of repairing the backlog of roads, his department has an adequate amount in its pavement management program to meet its current reconstruction cycle but also have “an additional $300,000 of capacity that we can put to curbing and sidewalks” over the next five years. 

Under the new five year plan, the sidewalks with non-grass, no curb barriers given the highest priority are along roadways which are:

  • School walking routes which will be retrofitted with curbing and a grass median. 
  • General walking routes – the main roads you use from neighborhood roads to main “collecting” roads (with granite curbs) leading to a destination site. 
  • Use-demand routes leading to parks, shops etc.
  • neighborhood roads, to re-establish a grass shoulder. 

With funding secured and a needed policy change before it, the Selectmen approved the changes unanimously. 

Possible Policy Change Could See Money Heading for Sidewalk Repair

Photo: Sidewalk in need of repair.

Town Meeting member Catherine Bowen came to the microphone to ask a question on the Capital Budget at the annual gathering on Wednesday, June 3.

If the town was spending in fiscal 2016 the largest amount ever on road resurfacing at $2.55 million – so much so, said Capital Budget Chair Anne Marie Mahoney, that it couldn’t spend “one more penny” because it had met its construction limit – why not dedicate a few dollars over to repair and reconstruct several miles of dilapidated sidewalks rather than roads that service a few homes with little traffic?

“I have been in Belmont for a few years so if you told me that roads were being repaired, I would naturally assume that sidewalks were part of that [reconstruction],” Bowen told the Belmontonian.

“But when the roads were being repaired in precinct four, I discovered that was not the case,” said the Bartlett Avenue resident.

After a few seconds, Belmont Board of Selectmen chair Sami Baghdady answered Bowen’s query and made news at the same time.

It’s time the board looks at the town’s policy on funding sidewalks as part of the road resurfacing account; he told the body.

And with that suggestion, Baghdady said the selectmen will soon debate possibly reintroducing an annual expenditure for sidewalks, reversing a decade-long practice of haphazard funding during the best of times.
“It was a good suggestion that came from the Town Meeting floor, and it is a policy that the board should discuss and reconsider,” said Baghdady.

With the rare exception of this and the coming fiscal years in which $200,000 in each year will be targeted for sidewalk repair using one-time funds, the town’s decade-old policy has been to forego sidewalk expenditures. As Mahoney stated earlier in the night, the need for road repair has been so pressing since the mid-2000s while money from state and local sources for resurfacing and reconstruction has dwindled over the years.

As a result, a walk on most Belmont sidewalks is interrupted by concrete slabs displaced by tree roots or broken by cars parking on them or by the weather. In all neighborhoods, the lack a well-defined sidewalk with curbing results in vehicles parking on the walkway.

The impact is that many residents – especially the aging or those pushing carriages – find the path daunting and will move in the roadway to walk.

As a member of Safe Routes to Schools at Butler Elementary and Sustainable Belmont, Bowen said as a “green” community the town should be interested in increasing transportation with a lower carbon footprint such as walking as well as encouraging healthy activities.

“There is an increasing awareness that people want to use their sidewalks, that we are using our sidewalks, but we don’t necessarily feel safe doing so,” said Bowen.

The call to review the current policy is due to the simple fact “that our sidewalks need repair,” Baghdady told the Belmontonian.

“Sidewalk replacement should be looked at at the same time. We are always looking for better practices and it seems personally that there might be some economies of scale if we do the work at the same time,” said Baghdady, saying that the board will be asking direction from the Department of Public Works and Community Development on writing a new policy.

“A practice should not survive just because it’s been there for years and years,” said Baghdady.