Andover will begin adding some of MassDOT’s 88 recommended Elm Square pedestrian safety improvements within a matter of weeks.
The changes in MassDOT’s safety study of the intersection the Town will start implementing include adjusting signaling to stop all traffic when walk light signs are lit and adding ‘No Turn On Red” Signs. Two parking spots would be eliminated on Elm Street, a crosswalk will be located and additional signs and lane markings. The Andover Select Board and MassDOT need to approve the short-term changes, which the Town expects within 3-6 weeks.
Work on the short-term fixes — which could be the most effective — comes after a months-long dialogue following the death of 5-year-old Sidney Olson in May. Olson’s family said the walk lights were lit when she was hit and killed by a truck while crossing the street. Since the crash, the Town’s only change to the intersection was moving stop lines further from crosswalks
At an emotional Elm Square Safety Forum Monday, Sidney’s father urged officials to expand the effort to problem areas throughout Town and to quicken the pace of implementing MassDOT’s recommendations, which were categorized as short-, intermediate and long-term fixes.
“That day in May, Sidney was one step away from being home right now, painting a unicorn or playing with her brother in the sandbox — inches away,” Eric Olson said. “Had the stop line been where it is now, she’d likely be here. Had the light been timed to delay the green a few seconds like it is now, she’d probably be here by our side. Had a tractor trailer not been navigating our downtown streets to deliver food that probably could have fit on something much smaller, we’d have our daughter. So I say that because small steps make a big difference.
Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said in addition to $100,000 Andover received in the state budget approved last week and $200,000 transferred for safety improvements, the Town is eligible for up to $400,000 in state funding for road and sidewalk work. The Andover Complete Street Group will begin drafting a prioritization plan next week, which will allow the Town to be eligible for the $400,000.
“My ask for this group on this work is let’s not let perfection get in the way of progress,” Olson said. “Let’s move fast on what’s sensible and learn from it. Something that we could sit around and debate for three to six weeks probably could be done in one.”