TEWKSBURY — Last Wednesday night, more than 30 residents attended a public hearing on Tewksbury’s Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan. The meeting was a joint effort between Town Engineer Kevin Hardiman, DPW Superintendent Brian Gilbert, and transportation consulting firm The Engineering Corp (TEC).
The TEC team, led by principal engineer Mikel Myers, included Michelle Fiorello, Rebecca Clark, and Eric Paquette — all former residents and graduates of Tewksbury Memorial High School.
According to Fiorello, “Being familiar with the town allows us to be more passionate about the project.”
The enthusiasm was reflected in the meeting’s attendees. Residents were excited to learn about the goals of the proposed plan and to give input based on their own experiences. Currently, Tewksbury has a fragmented sidewalk network, lacking safe pedestrian passage on major arteries, forcing pedestrians to switch from side to side without crosswalks, and suffering general inaccessibility, making it difficult for the community to travel significant distances on foot.
According to the presentation, Tewksbury has a “walk score” of 49, indicating “most errands require an automobile.”
Municipalities are ranked on a nationally indexed scale of 0-100, with 100 being the most walkable.
The goals of the project as outlined in the presentation are improved connectivity, access to points of interest, outdoor recreation, and safety. After the brief explanation by Hardiman, Gilbert, and TEC’s engineers, residents completed a short survey to assess their priorities relative to the project.
For example, attendees were asked if they preferred to construct new sidewalks or rehabilitate old ones. The information was collected and compiled as residents split into three “workshop” groups.
Myers noted that the workshop format creates a more collaborative and welcoming environment than the typical podium style. Each group received maps of the four quadrants of town, with existing sidewalks highlighted. Armed with markers, Google Maps, and their own ideas, citizens sketched out their desired sidewalk locations. TEC consultants took notes and listened as the attendees, some as young as nine, outlined their hopes for the sidewalk system in town.
One mom noted that kids in her neighborhood kids can’t wait for the school bus safely together, rather, the bus must make individual stops, as the kids are not connected. Another woman expressed concern for senior citizens walking along Shawsheen Street to go grocery shopping. Still more residents believed connecting the high school to Long Pond along Pleasant Street would offer curriculum opportunities to teachers and students.
Tania Sullivan, a member of the Visioning Committee, stated that through data collection, the committee learned “the number one comment from Tewksbury residents was that the town needs sidewalks.”
Priority streets identified by residents included Whipple Road, Shawsheen Street, Andover Street, Livingston Street, and South Street.
According to TEC consultants, sidewalks will have a positive impact on the town, increasing property values as well as safety, especially for children. However, some trees may need to be removed and on narrow roads, right-of-way sidewalks may be necessary.
After the workshop session, residents reconvened for a question and answer period with Hardiman and Gilbert. Some concerns were raised about winter sidewalk maintenance. Additionally, the Complete Streets program, the Safe Routes to School initiative and subdivision regulations were discussed.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick was also at the session: “This has been a long time coming, since the 2003 ad hoc sidewalk committee plan. It’s been evident in our most recent planning efforts, including the 2037 Community Vision Plan and the 2016 Master Plan, that there is a demand for sidewalks. We’re in a position where we can address sidewalks today, and we see it as enhancing pedestrian mobility, public health, and public safety. It’s a wonderful process to have the community involved in providing direction.”