The Town of Amherst has received a grant of $184,728 from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) as part of the “Shared Streets and Spaces Program” to make safety improvements to crosswalks and intersections in the northern end of Downtown Amherst.
This project aims to increase the safety and visibility of vital pedestrian crosswalks to enable safe passage across the road for people of all ages and abilities through the addition of audible flashing beacons, tactile warning surfaces and re-painted crosswalk markings. Specifically, the grant money will be used to improve the intersection of Triangle Street, Pray Street, and Cottage Street, paint crosswalk markings along Pray Street, and improve the crossing of East Pleasant Street from Pray Street to Kendrick Park. Situated between UMass, Downtown Amherst, and Amherst Regional High School, this area is busy with pedestrian, cyclist, bus, and vehicular traffic. The addition of a new playground in Kendrick Park will add to the pedestrian traffic in this area, making the need for safety even more important.
Town Manager Paul Bockelman said, “We are grateful to MassDOT for selecting our project from within a very competitive applicant pool. This generous funding opportunity will allow us to safely connect key community spaces in our Downtown, enhancing the overall sense of cohesion and usability.”
This project builds on two previous grants the Town has received from the MassDOT Shared Streets and Space Program. In October 2020, the Town received $129,000 from MassDOT to support outdoor dining, add new bus shelters and install downcast lights poles downtown, among other things. A subsequent grant for $192,600 received in March 2021 is being used to make improvements to pedestrian safety and circulation around the Bangs Community Center. A fully ADA accessible ramp is under construction which will provide access from the Boltwood Parking garage and downtown Amherst to the Bangs Center and Musante Health Center. This grant is also being used to purchase furniture for the Boltwood plaza to activate this space and make it an area to gather.
The MassDOT Shared Streets and Spaces program provides technical and funding assistance to help cities and towns conceive, design, and implement tactical changes to curbs, streets, and parking areas in support of public health, safe mobility and renewed commerce. As of April 2020, the Commonwealth had invested $26.4 million in municipal Shared Streets projects.