Temporary crosswalks will be constructed in the Hansen School area as a short-term solution while officials discuss more permanent traffic and safety improvements to Central St. in the vicinity of the elementary school, Interim Town Manager Joseph Feaster and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi announced Thursday.
Meanwhile, Stoughton's State House delegation has urged Governor Deval Patrick to release money set aside for other projects in the state's transportation bond bill for a traffic study of the Hansen area.
Town, regional and state officials met Thursday morning in the Yaitanes Room at the Stoughton Town Hall to discuss traffic safety concerns throughout the town, but specifically the area near the Central St. and West St. intersection. The meeting came almost two weeks after Shayla Lutz, a three-year-old Stoughton girl, died following a tragic accident on Sept. 14 when she was struck by a box truck in front of the Hansen School.
"The recent accident near the Hansen Elementary School which resulted in the tragic death of Shayla Lutz has spurred Stoughton to examine traffic safety issues throughout the Town," stated a press release from the town.
“The tragic accident near the Hansen School has caused us to focus our attention on this issue so that such tragedy will not occur in our Town in the future," Feaster said in the release.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi added, “The entire school community is saddened by the tragic death of Shayla near the Hansen Elementary School. We will work with Mr. Feaster, the Town officials and others to insure that our school zones are safe for all of our students and their families.”
Within the next three weeks, Dr. Rizzi said some short-term fixes will be put in place, while a longer-term solution, like entirely reconstructing the Central St. and West St. intersection and possibly placing an island there, is discussed.
These short-term fixes include moving the crosswalk, currently in place at the Central St. and West St. intersection, closer to the Central St. driveway in front of the Hansen School, Dr. Rizzi said. The Stoughton DPW will construct a temporary sidewalk on the other side of Central St. across from the school's driveway. The sight lines are better in this area and it will be safer to cross there, officials say.
Dr. Rizzi said that since the new temporary crosswalk would only serve a small number of students a crossing guard would not be placed there, at least initially.
Another short-term fix is adding a marked crosswalk on the Hansen School's Central St. parking lot, marking a path across the parking lot to the school.
And, an internal circulation plan for pickup/drop off will be implemented.
Feaster and Rizzi convened the Sept. 27 meeting of town departments and local and state officials. Police Chief Paul Shastany; Executive Officer Robert Devine; Fire Chief Mark Dolloff; DPW Superintendent John Batchelder; Town Planner Noreen O'Toole; Building Supervisor Bob Grover; Engineer Mark Tisdale; Joel Harding, Supervisor of Support Services for the Schools; School Committee members Joyce Husseini and Dr. Erdem Ural, Redevelopment Authority member Forrest Lindwall and Jed Cornock and Ray Guarino of the Old Colony Planning Council joined Feaster and Rizzi at the meeting.
State Representative William Galvin (D-Canton), Representative Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton), Emily Kowtoniuk of Senator Brian A. Joyce’s office and Nicholas Zaferakis, Jr. of Congressman Stephen Lynch’s office were also in attendance.
Reps. Galvin and Kafka and Sen. Joyce sent a letter to Gov. Patrick about the urgency of addressing the traffic situation near the Hansen School (it is posted in the media gallery).
The letter, dated Sept. 20, reads:
In the recent transportation bond bill, now Chapter 242 of the Acts of 2012, we included a provision in Section 2A that authorized funding for signalization improvements at the intersection of Route 27 and Erin Road in the town of Stoughton. The funding would allow the town to address the recent spate of traffic accidents that have occurred at the bend in the road immediately south ofthe intersection.
Unfortunately, an accident occurred in that area last week, which resulted in the death of a three-year-old girl. In light of this tragic accident, we would like to sit down with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the aforementioned provision in the hopes of using those funds immediately for a public safety study of the area. It is clear that this stretch of road has now become a significant public safety issue for the residents of Stoughton.
Prior to Thursday's meeting, Chief Shastany and Executive Officer Devine appeared at a Hansen School PTO meeting Monday night to answer questions from parents and a team of engineers was at the Hansen School on Tuesday to observe the dismissal process from start to finish.
"There is really a lot to be said in terms of the town departments working together to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again," School Committee chair Deborah Sovinee said at the Sept. 26 School Committee meeting.
While speed, phone distractions, and impairment were not factors in the accident which killed Shayla Lutz, town officials are reminding residents to be aware of their surroundings when driving - not to be on the phone or sending texts, not to speed and not to drive around school buses - especially in school zones and in school parking lots.
"There are many driving behaviors people engage in that absolutely could be the cause of this happening somewhere else," Dr. Rizzi said at the Sept. 26 School Committee meeting.
School Committee member George Dolinsky said that he felt the students themselves needed to be aware of their surroundings as well - not "darting in and out" of traffic - especially the middle school students leaving the O'Donnell Middle School and crossing Cushing St.
"The key is we have to educate the students themselves and they have to be aware. You can talk all you want about cellphones, speeders, passing buses - it starts with the kids," Dolinsky said at the Sept. 26 School Committee meeting.