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Westwood Safe Routes to School, November 20, 2015MassDOT today joined students, parents and local leaders to celebrate the completion of pedestrian access and safety improvements at the Downey Elementary School in Westwood.

The improvements, constructed by MassDOT with funds from the Federal Highway Administration and support through the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program, created new infrastructure to support walking and bicycling for not only today’s children, but for future generations.

“MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program is an integral component of our statewide initiatives to foster healthier and more active communities by encouraging students to safely walk and bike to school,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “By providing infrastructure improvements to school communities who qualify, we are able to nurture more opportunities for students, parents, school staff, and the local community to make healthier transportation choices.”

The constructed pedestrian and bicycle safety and access improvements included both new and reconstructed sidewalks along Forbes Road to an existing path to the school, as well as new sidewalks along Downey Street. Additionally, the crossing at Smith Drive was relocated to the school’s front entrance to improve visibility, and to locate it within the marked school zone, which now has a flashing warning assembly. Improvements also included pavement markings for new crossings and bicycle accommodations, signs, ADA compliant wheelchair ramps, and drainage enhancements.

Since partnering with the Safe Routes to School Program in 2007, Downey staff and parents have collaborated with MassDOT to address neighborhood safety-related barriers for students who want to walk or bicycle to school. School partners receive year-round pedestrian and bicycle safety education instruction as well as engagement initiatives tailored to meet each school’s health, safety and environmental priorities.

“The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program works with elementary and middle schools throughout the Commonwealth to teach the principles of safe walking and bicycling behaviors so that students and parents have the appropriate safety tools to get to school in a fun, active, and healthy way,” said Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program Director Kristin Slaton. “The infrastructure improvements can now allow for even more families to walk and bike to school.”

The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program is sponsored by MassDOT with funds from the Federal Highway Administration. The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School model of inclusiveness emphasizes a collaborative, community-focused approach that fosters mutual partnerships between advocacy groups, law enforcement, education leaders and public health departments that all work together to promote safer routes for children to get to school. Participating schools may also qualify for financial support for improvements to sidewalks and other infrastructure surrounding the schools. The program serves over 700 elementary and middle schools in 190 communities throughout the Commonwealth. School partners receive year-round pedestrian and bicycle safety education instruction, as well as engagement initiatives tailored to meet each school’s health, safety, and environmental priorities.

Learn more about the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program.

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