, Newburyport, MA

October 14, 2013

Priorities for the new Bresnahan School

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Although the mayor has stated how she thinks we should spend the $1.5 million saved on the lower than expected bid for the new Bresnahan School, there are a number of other items that the city might want to consider first.

A Feb. 2, 2012, traffic impact assessment made by MDM Transportation Consultants Inc. (“MDM”) contains some important insights and recommendations. The most striking is a recommendation (p. 18) that a “comprehensive traffic management plan” be developed that includes “staggered pick-up/drop-off periods, designated parking for pick-up/drop-off activity and other measures aimed at spreading peak queue demand.” The assessment authors were concerned that the drop-off/pick-up periods for the preschool and grades 1-3 may overlap, and with the increased lines of cars entering and leaving the new school.

At meetings that have been held with abutters and residents of the neighborhood around the new school, we continue to ask about final traffic plans. The mayor and school officials keep telling us that plans cannot be finalized because the number of students attending the new school and the number of students taking buses are not finalized. Despite these excuses, the study by MDM was able to estimate many such numbers, based on their traffic observations, the capacity of the new school and statistics combined from the current school and the Brown School. It appears to us that the new school is being completed without the guidance or modifications that the comprehensive traffic management plan might suggest we need to consider before it is too late.

The MDM recommends (p. 21) that, for traffic exiting on North Atkinson Street, the sight line for vehicles looking to the north is now only 85 feet, while the recommended AASHTO minimum is 200 feet. They suggested we should grade the adjacent hillside to improve the driver sight line to oncoming traffic, and that has not yet been done. Their suggestions (p. 22) also include a recommendation that the North Atkinson Street driveway should be at least 30 feet wide, and accommodate a 12-foot departure lane and a single entry lane of 18 feet, to facilitate curbside queuing and vehicle bypass to the main parking field during the drop-off/pick-up periods.

With respect to the potential utilization of Murphy Avenue for egress from the school, the study assumed that exiting traffic would only be able to make a right turn on Low Street, but stated that restriction may require further evaluation, since the authors were not sure it would be “viable and enforceable.” Residents of Murphy Avenue are concerned they will not be able to get out of their driveways. We need to make these matters a priority to ensure that everything planned will work.

Ed Anderson