Safety concerns prompt sidewalk construction

Chronicle Staff

By Daniel Rothberg

A sidewalk will be constructed parallel to the exit lane of the senior parking lot over winter break in response to a column in The Chronicle’s September issue about pedestrian safety. Columnist and Editor-in-Chief Alice Phillips ’11 toured the lot with administrators last Wednesday to identify safety issues for pedestrians.

The plan is to have the walkway completed by the end of winter break, Director of Campus Operations and Construction JD De Matté said. The sidewalk will begin behind the kiosk and end near the wrestling room.

“Putting a sidewalk in is immensely helpful because, if students use it as intended, they won’t have to walk in the same place that cars are driving,” Phillips said. “The sidewalk will take pedestrians all the way past Hamilton. That is definitely an improvement from the current situation.”

Construction workers will also expand the lot’s exit lane by one foot, De Matté said.

“Making the parking lot one foot wider in the exit lane will give drivers more room and help fix the blind corner when you turn right to go up the hill by the kiosk,” Phillips said.

De Matté said that construction will also begin over break to connect the fire road, known as Wolverine Walk, with the sidewalk in front of Taper. This will allow students to walk directly to and from school without crossing into traffic, he said.

One issue addressed in Phillips’ column that will not be fixed during winter break is the pedestrian traffic in the right-hand turn lane of the south driveway where students exit the school.

“It will take me a little more time to develop [a fix to] this due to many different factors,” De Matté said.

The group that met with Phillips on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the safety issues included De Matté, Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra, Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin and Director of Personnel and Risk Management Marty Greco.

“We approved it right in front of her when we ended our walk. With anything that relates to a safety issue, we don’t wait,” De Matté said. “We don’t wait until someone gets killed in an intersection before we fix the light.”

Salamandra said that before reading the column, he had received no feedback about lot safety from students.

Phillips first thought about pedestrian safety in the parking lot last year when she parked in St. Michael’s, she said.

“Because my parking space in the senior lot is in the lane that everyone walks through to get to the junior lot, I noticed the problem much more acutely at the beginning of my senior year,” she said.

Salamandra said that he encourages students to give the administration feedback so that they can make improvements on campus.

“Sometimes, I think students think they don’t have the power to make changes,” Salamandra said. “That’s crazy. I say to the kids in my class all the time, ‘I need to know what you’re thinking because we can tweak things.’”

“I’m glad that our administration is so responsive to student concerns,” Phillips said.

There are two sources of funding that De Matté could potentially utilize for this project, he said. One is a line item in the operating budget for risk mitigation. The other is a general “renewal and replacement” reserve, Levin said.

Levin said that within reason, money is not a consideration when safety is involved.

“Students first, money last,” Levin said. “We don’t want dollars and cents to guide safety related decisions.”