Winter commences

On January 13, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

When it comes to the current snow season, we’ve been very lucky – so far.  January 11 was the first morning since October 31 that we woke up to enough snow that we had to scrape off our windshields.  And even then, it was only dusting.  Still, it’s only a matter of time. Like every other New England community, we need to be to face the elements as safely and efficiently as possible.

Aside from reviewing our typical snow emergency procedures and winter parking policies, which you can find on the City’s website at www.somervillema.gov/snow, ensuring safe walking routes throughout the winter months is an important goal of this administration.  Clear sidewalks both enable safe traveling, particularly for those with mobility issues or families or individuals with baby strollers attempting to navigate the already treacherous snow- and ice-laden streets, and encourage local shopping.

Like the neighboring communities of Cambridge and Boston, the City of Somerville requires property owners to clear a path for pedestrians when it snows; Somerville’s ordinance requires a path of at least 42 inches wide, consistent with ADA standards.  To help encourage shoveling, the City partnered last year with Go Green Streets and the US Postal Service to host a “Best Shoveled Block” contest, with streets being nominated by US Postal workers who travel these streets each and ever day.  We’ll be announcing the 2012 contest shortly, so stay tuned.

In addition to sidewalks, though, we’ve got to work together to find a solution to bus stop clearance. The City of Somerville is responsible for clearing the streets, public schools and buildings, and then key squares and major sidewalks, and where possible, our DPW crews will work to clear bus stops in the City, though most are owned and operated by the MBTA or privately-owned local companies, like Cemusa USA.  Many of the other 200-plus stops never get cleared. This leaves bus stops covered in mounds of snow, which, among other things, makes it difficult for transit users to visit local businesses.

That’s why the City of Somerville and WalkBoston, a pedestrian advocacy organization aimed at helping to make Massachusetts’ communities more walkable, working together this winter to encourage business owners to clear snow and ice from their nearest bus stop that their own customers use, particularly as some of the most heavily used bus stops are in Somerville’s neighborhood business districts. For example, about 250 people use the bus stops at the intersection at Broadway and Cross Street in the heart of East Somerville each day, while the stop at Broadway and Holland Street in Teele Square has more than 300 daily users, and 300 more across the street at Broadway opposite Curtis Street. The stop at Somerville Avenue and Central Street has 440 daily users, and more than 500 people board or alight at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Central Street each day.  I appreciate the efforts of WalkBoston to organize this campaign here and in surrounding communities, and I look forward to continuing our partnership on this front as the winter months stretch before us.

We encourage business owners with public sidewalks in front or around their business to shovel every time it snows. Clearing a path for bus riders through the snowbank and a small waiting area doesn’t require much more effort–especially if a few neighboring businesses take the job in turns. A business whose customers arrive by car (think Assembly Square) wouldn’t tolerate an unplowed parking lot, so why should a local business whose customers arrive on a bus or on foot tolerate an unshoveled bus stop?

Let’s clear those sidewalks and bus stops this winter to increase local business and shopping.  We’re in it together, Somerville.

Happy Winter!

 

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