Hale Street Pedestrian & Bike Improvements

Hale St photo 11-15-2017 740pHale Street is an important route connecting the Squires Glen and West End neighborhoods to downtown. It also links to the Coastal Trails network, with a trailhead for the Gloria Braunhardt Bike Path that provides a safe route to the Storey Avenue business district as well as the bus station and the Garrison Trail. However, Hale Street’s high traffic speeds, lack of sidewalks, and narrow to nonexistent shoulders make it unwelcoming for walkers and bicyclists, particularly young people getting to school and activities. 

Newburyport Livable Streets is facilitating a community discussion about making the road safer and more accessible. This process started with a public meeting on February 4, 2020. City Engineer Jon-Eric White presented concepts to make the road safer for walkers and bicyclists getting from the West End and Squires Glen neighborhoods to schools, recreation, and the downtown. About 40 residents and City officials attended the meeting and discussed their concerns and priorities.

Concept

The initial concept presented for consideration would involve widening the vehicular travel way from its current 22-24 feet (plus a sidewalk near Low Street) to 30 feet in order to accommodate 4-foot shoulders on each side, making for safer bicycle travel. In addition, the concept calls for a 5-foot sidewalk on the north side of the street, separated from the shoulder with a 6-inch curb. Thus, the total proposed width from edge of pavement to the back of the sidewalk would be 35.5 feet. This concept is shown diagrammatically below.

This widening can take place within the existing City right-of-way, which is probably 50 to 60 feet wide throughout the corridor. Environmental constraints such as wetlands can likely be avoided in most areas.

Meeting attendees had a number of comments on this initial improvement concept. The discussion revolved around balancing safety with cost and the speed within which a project could be completed. In particular, there was debate about whether to include a sidewalk along the entire 1.7-mile road, because this would require the addition of a closed drainage system which significantly adds to the total cost. Yet without a sidewalk the road would most likely have to be made even wider to provide adequate lateral separation from traffic.

The next steps will be to develop a proposed design with estimated costs and a phasing plan, and to identify potential sources of funding such as MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program and Complete Streets Funding Program.

Resources

A video of the February 4 public meeting is online at the PortMedia YouTube channel here.

The Department of Public Services, Engineering Division, has a Hale Street project page here. The page includes a link to City Engineer’s presentation at the February 4 meeting.

The Small Town and Rural Design Guide contains examples and guidance for accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians on roads like Hale Street.