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safe-routes-to-school-improvements-fitchburg-october-18-2017MassDOT through the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program, today joined students, parents and local leaders to celebrate the operational completion of pedestrian accessibility and safety improvements at the South Street Elementary School in Fitchburg. The improvements created new infrastructure to support walking and bicycling to school.

“MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program is an important part of our statewide initiative to promote healthy, active, and vibrant communities,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “MassDOT is committed to making infrastructure improvements that have a lasting effect on school communities, so that students, parents, school staff, and local community members can choose healthier transportation choices now and into the future.”

The infrastructure improvements include sidewalk reconstruction along South Street, Old South Street, Electric Avenue, and within the South Street Elementary School campus. Additional improvements include installation of ADA compliant wheelchair ramps, and reconstruction of the existing traffic signal, pavement markings, and signs, which provide further safety mechanisms to pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. Additional improvements will follow and include signage and landscaping.

“The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program works with elementary and middle schools throughout the Commonwealth to teach principals of safe walking and bicycling behaviors,” said MassDOT Highway Chief Engineer Patricia Leavenworth. “The goal of the program is to give students and parents the appropriate tools so they can get to and from school in a fun, healthy, and most importantly, safe manner.”

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 780 elementary and middle schools in 200 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.

The Baker-Polito Administration has spent over $2.8 billion since 2015 on highway construction projects and bridges, pavement, intersection and sidewalk improvements, and bike lanes, and over $700 million in Chapter 90 local transportation funding for cities and towns. In addition, $16 million has also been awarded through the Administration’s Small Bridge Program, which was announced in 2016, and allows municipalities to repair or replace their small bridges which are not eligible for federal funding. The Baker-Polito Administration has also awarded a total of approximately $17.7 million in Complete Streets Funding Awards which allow cities and towns to make road, sidewalks, and bicycle infrastructure upgrades. Statewide, those investments have paved approximately 2,000 lane miles, enough to cross Massachusetts and back at least 5 times; installed 160 miles of sidewalk, almost encircling the Quabbin Reservoir; and rehabilitated or replaced approximately 80 bridges.

To find out more about the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program, visit www.Mass.gov/MassDOT/SafeRoutes.

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