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Newton's "Culture of Safety" Takes Another Step

Earlier today, Newton Mayor Setti Warren accepted recommendations from the Transportation Advisory Committee that look to create safer, well-functioning streets.

After more than 16 months of work, discussion and community feedback, the Newton Transportation Advisory Committee took another step today toward making Newton streets safer for all commuters, whether the means of transportation has an engine or not.

Earlier today, Newton Mayor Setti Warren accepted a set of recommendations from the city's Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), a group that was formed in July 2010 and tasked with reviewing transportation issues in the city. 

"[The TAC] has done tremendous work in setting forth a vision for the city around transportation, to make this community more walkable, safe and bikeable, [and] to ensure in the next 10 years Newton is on the pathway to being a much more successful place in and around all aspects of transportation," Warren said during a press conference Thursday morning.

In its 60-page recommendation report, the committee suggests a wide-range of initiatives from policy changes to a bicycle master plan. Overall, the initiatives look to make the city more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, with four main focus areas:

  • Creating a set of citywide transportation goals that will help various city departments make decisions regarding Newton's transportation system.
  • Creating a permanent, interdepartmental Transportation Advisory Group (TAG), which Warren said he will appoint and form by January 1. Eventually, the city should develop a "true" Transportation Department from the TAG and the Transportation Division in the Department of Public Works. 
  • Develop specific ideas, timelines and executive orders that will address policies around transportation including a "complete streets" policy, a bicycle master plan, an urban fabric master plan and a parking management plan. 
  • Addressing a number of recommendations around safety and urban planning for all members of the community, from students to seniors. Also, the group looks to better educate the community and everyone who travels through the city. 

To view a full copy of the report and recommendations, click the .pdf above. 

"We need to launch a city-wide conversation about how to travel in Newton and how to travel safely in Newton," said TAC Chair Stephanie Pollack. "Nothing else works if we don't feel safe."

Pollack explained that with specific goals and policies around transportation, decisions on infrastructure improvements and construction projects will take into account safety for pedestrians and cyclists. This includes accomodations like clearly marked crosswalks, revamped sidewalks and more bike lanes.

Currently there are 3.6 miles of bike lanes in Newton, including Walnut Street in front of City Hall and Beacon Street through Newton Centre.

When it comes to covering costs for these initiatives, Pollack said the TAC recommended dedicating 10 percent of the Chapter 90 funding to transportation safety improvements in the city. With a recent increase to that funding, Pollack says it will hopefully mean more money for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

As for other funding sources, Pollack said the city needs to re-think how it does projects and roadway improvements so the money it already has is used effectively and in a way that follows the recommendations of the TAC. 

"We need to take every resource we already have and deploy it differently," Pollack said, adding that the money spent should be "consistent with new policies."

In addition to policies and roadway improvements, the city is also launching a "Street Smart" safety campaign in an effort to better educate all members of the Newton community.

The Street Smart website launched earlier today and offers safety tips for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and commuters using two-wheel motorized vehicles. 

The city will also reach out to the local schools to bring the safety message to students, Warren said.

According to the TAC's report, Newton's current transportation network is "imbalanced" and favors cars over other forms of transportation. With policies and goals in the city that keep other forms of transportation in mind, fewer cars will be on the road and traffic flow throughout the city will improve. 

In 2010, , which averages out to nearly one per week. The city also saw five traffic fatalities in the summer of 2010. 

After its formation and initial recommendations, the TAC held community meetings in the city to hear feedback from residents and elected officials about where they wanted to see transportation safety improvements.

During one community meeting held at Newton North High School in October 2010, Pollack told the group the city . 

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