By Amaris Castillo
Officials want to make the immediate areas around Dracut Public Schools safer for students to walk to and from school.
Town Manager Jim Duggan said he and other officials plan to pursue a partnership with the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program. According to the Massachusetts government website, the Safe Routes to School program works to increase safe biking and walking among students at elementary and middle schools by using a collaborative, community-focused approach that bridges the gap between health and transportation.
Duggan is meeting regularly with Police Chief Peter Bartlett, Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone and other town officials on the matter.
Stone said the district's four elementary schools are already partners with the program, but that he reached out to other town officials to discuss ways to alleviate traffic and increase the walk areas.
"This is going to be a long-term project," Stone said. "Everyone is committed to seeing if we can work together to effect some changes."
Duggan said they are trying to "identify and prioritize the areas to increase the sidewalks that would lead to schools around town," such as around the Dr. Christos Daoulas Education Complex on Lakeview Avenue and the areas around the Greenmont Avenue and Joseph A. Campbell Elementary schools.
"Some of those side streets aren't heavily traveled, but still we want to try to be as safe as possible," Duggan said.
Duggan said the plan could also save money on busing fees. "If we can expand the sidewalks leading directly from the schools to the neighborhoods, then we don't have to have those buses," he said.
Stone said "efficiencies" derived from the effort are an overall reduction in transportation costs, which would likely impact fees.
Bartlett said he has to first analyze accident and traffic data. "Once we have the data of the (traffic) volume, how many accidents we have, then we can start looking at, do we need to make improvements on certain things?"
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