Following the death of three-year-old Shayla Lutz of Stoughton who was struck by a box truck in front of the Hansen Elementary School in a tragic accident the afternoon of Sept. 14, town leaders met Sept. 27 to discuss traffic safety concerns in the Hansen area and throughout the town.
With a relocated crosswalk and an added sidewalk on Central Street and a striped sidewalk painted across the Hansen School parking lot, short-term safety improvements announced at this Sept. 27 meeting are already in place.
Three weeks after this meeting, officials met again, Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Hansen School lobby to announce proposed long-term improvements to the Central Street and West Street intersection at a press conference.
"We pulled together as a community, both the schools and the municipal side in order to address this particular issue," Interim Town Manager Joseph Feaster said.
"As a response to the tragic death of Shayla Lutz outside [the Hansen], we decided that we would convene everybody who would have a part in making this particular area of Stoughton and others safe for children and all pedestrians in general," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi said.
Currently there is a 120-foot crosswalk with no island spanning the Central St./West St. intersection. The intersection currently has two entry points for one lane. The intersection is unsafe for both vehicles and pedestrians, Assistant Town Engineer Mark Tisdale said at Thursday's press conference.
Instead of this current "Y" layout for the intersection, a proposed overhaul of the intersection would create a more standard "T" geometry, Tisdale said, which will feature a more narrow intersection with just one lane of entry.
In place of a 120-foot crosswalk with no island, there would be a 70-foot crossing area with a large pedestrian island.
In order to improve traffic flow, there will be a left and right turn only lane on West Street to enter Central Street. And, there will be the addition of a left-hand turning lane on Central Street at Central and West for cars traveling north on Route 27/Central Street (towards Canton) and taking a left on to West Street.
Other proposed improvements for the area include installing an island at the Central Street driveway to the Hansen School to promote a right turn only on to Central Street.
And, flashing school zone signs on Central Street will be relocated to provide an increase in sight distance and driver awareness.
These proposed changes, are just that - a proposal - officials stressed. There will be further analysis of this conceptual plan, making sure it does not negatively impact any of the other nearby intersections on Central Street, Tisdale said.
The plan was done keeping in mind the possibility of the Woodbridge Development, located across from the Hansen School and this intersection, coming to fruition.
The proposed timeline for reconstructing the Central/West intersection has bot been determined.
Already in place, however, are some short-term traffic solutions in the Hansen area.
The crosswalk on Central Street, just past the Central/West intersection, has been painted over and moved to in front of the Hansen School's Central Street driveway. A sidewalk has been constructed on the other side of this crosswalk, across from the Hansen driveway.
The sight lines are better in this area and it will be safer to cross there, officials say.
Dr. Rizzi said that since this new crosswalk would only serve a small number of students a crossing guard would not be placed there.
A striped crosswalk has also been painted on the Hansen School's Central Street parking lot, marking a path across the parking lot to the school. This striped crosswalk lines up with the new Central St. crosswalk.
John Batchelder, the Superintendent of Public Works in Stoughton, said he would like to see the addition of a pedestrian crossing light at this new crosswalk.
Altering the circulation plan for pickup/drop off within the Hansen School parking lot will also be considered, Dr. Rizzi said.
In addition to just the Central/West intersection and Hansen area, safety on Route 27 and throughout the town is being examined.
"Route 27 is constructed for accidents," Police Chief Paul Shastany said. "It's not if, but when."
Batchelder said the Old Colony Planning Council is investigating all intersections from Avon to Canton on Central Street. The DPW has also added extra striping at a number of crosswalks throughout town.
Sen. Joyce offered support on behalf of Stoughton's State House delegation.
"I'm happy to work with Rep. Galvin, Rep. Kafka and certainly with Mr. Feaster and other town officials to provide whatever the state can to avoid any such tragedies in the future and to allow other children to safely grow and flourish at [the Hansen School]," Joyce said at Thursday's press conference.
Hansen School Principal Faye Polillio, Stoughton Police Safety Officer Lt. Michael Blount, Stoughton Police Officer Shawn Faria, Stoughton Fire Department Captain Jim Bertram, Town Planner Noreen O'Toole, Selectman Cynthia Walsh, Ted Philips from the State Representative Lou Kafka's office, and Raymond Guarino from the Old Colony Planning Council joined Sen. Joyce, Superintendent Rizzi, Interim Town manager Feaster, Chief Shastany, Batchelder and Tisdale at the press conference.