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.