Safe Routes to School

July 7, 2020:

The state contractor has finished most of the upgraded drainage pipes and structures in the High Street corridor, although there are still a few areas that need work resolving some underground infrastructure conflicts as well as coordination with National Grid.  The contractor has recently started work on the sidewalk in front of the High School, where there will be a grass buffer strip between the sidewalk and the road and a revised curve at the corner to shorten the distance for students and others crossing Toppans Lane.  The stacked granite curb stones will be reinstalled.  In addition, three street trees have been identified by the City’s Tree Warden, as well as the contractor, engineer, and MassDOT, as needing to be removed for safety reasons as well as achieving compliance with universal access requirements.  The trees will be replaced with new ones towards the end of the project.  Two of the trees are Norway maples which, while common, are considered an invasive species and are on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List.  Existing Norway maples are generally considered of lower value to the public than other trees, and they are generally being slowly replaced as public street trees when the opportunity arises with other more beneficial species (reducing Norway maple seed production).  The general approach has been to avoid removing trees as much as possible during the project, and the great majority of them have been protected.  However, conditions in the field can modify plans, and occasionally trees need to come down.  The direct abutters have been contacted and are supportive of the removal and replacement of these trees. 

high school sidewalk

May 27, 2020 – SRTS Project Update:

The state contractor RM Pacella for the SRTS High Street project is continuing to work on upgrading the catch basins and stormwater drainage pipes in the vicinity of the High School.  Looking ahead to the coming weeks, the contractor plans to complete the drainage work near the High School area by around June 10, and will then return to the western end of the project in the Tyng/Toppans area of High Street to begin addressing the curbing and sidewalks.  The intention is for the contractor to address the area around the High School prior to the rest of the project corridor in order to avoid the congestion when school is in session and students are arriving or departing for the day.  The MassDOT Resident Engineer, the contractor’s Superintendent, and the City’s Senior Project Manager have continued to coordinate and discuss the project and its timing with various abutters.

drainage work

May 7, 2020

Virtual Public Information Meeting Offered for “Safe Routes to Schools” Project on High Street in Newburyport

The City of Newburyport will be hosting a virtual “Zoom” public information meeting on the Safe Routes to Schools project along High Street at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday May 14, 2020.  Participants will include the City’s Senior Project Manager Geordie Vining, City Councilor Heather Shand, and Superintendent Ed Henderson of the state’s contractor RM Pacella.  The City and the contractor are in touch with individual abutters and are generally available to answer questions, and general project updates and information will be posted every few weeks on the City’s website.  The purpose of the upcoming virtual public meeting is to provide an additional forum for members of the public to potentially ask questions as construction begins on the project. 

The link for the upcoming Zoom webinar virtual public information meeting is as follows:

Topic: High Street “Safe Routes to Schools” Project
Time: May 14, 2020 6:00 PM Eastern Time
Join Zoom Webinar:
Phone/Audio:      1 (646) 558-8656
Webinar ID:        881 7488 5795

The contractor began some drainage work on High Street at the beginning of this month in the vicinity of the High School and is planning to subsequently work on the sidewalks and curbing in this vicinity.  The federally-funded project is focused on improving pedestrian crossings of High Street and reconstructing sidewalks and non-compliant curb ramps between Tyng and Buck Streets. 

Information on the development of this project dating back to 2013 is available on the project page of the Newburyport Office of Planning & Development website:

For more information, contact Geordie Vining, Senior Project Manager in Newburyport’s Planning Office, at [email protected](Please note that phone calls are not available due to City Hall’s closure and staff working remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

April 16, 2020

Safe Routes to School Project Beginning on High Street

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has hired R.M. Pacella, Inc. to construct the federally-funded Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) project along a portion of High Street between Toppans Lane and Buck Street.  The contractor is mobilizing to begin work this spring of 2020.

The design of the SRTS project was developed in 2018-2019 by TEC, Inc., and focused on addressing several excessively wide pedestrian crossings of High Street, as well as improving sight lines to pedestrian crossings obscured by parked vehicles, and reconstructing sidewalks and non-compliant curb ramps.  MassDOT has assigned a Resident Engineer, Laura Beth Solomon, to manage the project.  City staff involved in this project include Geordie Vining from the Newburyport Planning Office, Steve Bergholm from the School Department and Jamie Tuccolo from the Department of Public Services, who will work with MassDOT and the contractor.  Design and construction are fully supported by federal funding.

The contractor anticipates substantially completing the SRTS project this year, and is going to provide general “three-week look-ahead” schedules to MassDOT that will be posted on the City’s website.  The contractor is currently putting up “work zone” signs and is planning on installing video message boards along High Street during the week of 4/20/20.  The subcontractor MON Landscaping will begin installing tree protection and addressing the interface of the sidewalks and roots at the end of April and early May.  RM Pacella anticipates beginning installation of new drainage structures and pipes in the road in the High School area of High Street in early May, and will work their way east during the next month or two.  Pending permission from the Parks Commission, the contractor anticipates using the southern third of the Cushing Parking Lot on the Washington Street side for a temporary laydown area for the project’s drainage structures and other miscellaneous materials.  The project’s work on sidewalks, curbing, driveways, and so forth is anticipated to begin in mid-summer.  Work hours will be 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and two lanes of traffic will be maintained at all times.  MassDOT and the contractor will individually contact abutters a few days prior to work adjacent to their property.

The contractor’s crew is required to adhere to the state’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and procedures for public works construction sites, including social distancing, wearing gloves, sanitizing best practices, and daily safety checklists.  For more information, see:

For more information, contact Geordie Vining, Senior Project Manager in Newburyport’s Planning Office, at [email protected].  (Please note that phone calls are not available due to City Hall’s closure and staff working remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

February 5, 2019

During the last two months, the City has worked with MassDOT and the project engineer TEC to incorporate a number of revisions into the plans for the Safe Routes to Schools project.  Please see the link at the upper left of this page for updated draft final construction plans, as well as revised right-of-way plans.  (There are still a couple of corrections that have been agreed upon but are not yet reflected in the plans, and which will be incorporated later this month.)  In addition, we have conducted extensive outreach to project abutters, and continue to have multiple individual discussions with property owners regarding the temporary construction easements required for the work as well as several tiny permanent easements at sidewalk corner roundings.  The project has multiple milestones to be met during the coming months in terms of securing the temporary construction easements, legal work, the City Council, Planning Board, Registry of Deeds, MassDOT, etc. to keep the project on schedule for advertisement this summer.  Given the anticipated 4+ month process for MassDOT to receive bids, make a selection, contract, and issue a notice to proceed, it is anticipated that construction will commence in 2020.

If there are questions, please contact Senior Project Manager Geordie Vining at [email protected] or (978) 465-4400 x6.

December 6, 2018:
Please click on the links at the upper left of this page for the two available “before-and-after” visualizations of the Safe Routes to Schools project at the High Street-Johnson Street intersection and the High Street-Toppans Lane intersection.  (Please note that these simulations are just graphic representations and not intended to be photo-realistic in every respect.)  There is also a link available for the Newburyport Historical Commission’s comment letter on the project indicating “no adverse effect” on the historical district.  We have been working with MassDOT and its engineering consultant TEC to update various details of the project plans, and MassDOT’s Project Manager has indicated that the revised plans are not available for posting while they are being modified.  However, please note that the Planning Office has a hard copy of the plans as revised through 12/5/18 that is available for review in the office.
During the past 6-7 weeks, we worked with City Councillors, met with the Newburyport Historical Commission (NHC), conducted meetings with the Newburyport Preservation Trust citizens group and the Newburyport Livable Streets citizens group, met with the School Committee, which voted to support the project, and hosted an open house public meeting.  We sent a mailing, and had multiple one-on-one and small group meetings and discussions with a number of abutters to the project along High Street, as well as other interested citizens.   We also met with MassDOT and the engineer TEC to discuss multiple details and make updates to the plans. 
We are currently working with abutters to secure the required “temporary construction easements,” which will provide the contractor with the legal right of access to smoothly connect the reconstructed sidewalk with driveways, walkways, and lawns.  The design should be finalized in early 2019, and the project is scheduled to be advertised for construction in the summer of 2019.
If there are questions, please contact Senior Project Manager Geordie Vining at [email protected] or (978) 465-4400.
October 22, 2018:
The City is working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) on a federally-funded “Safe Routes to Schools” (SRTS) project along a portion of High Street between Tyng and Buck Streets.  The SRTS program is intended to encourage students to walk and bicycle to school safely through physical infrastructure improvements such as sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming, signals, and bike lanes.  The original 2005 federal legislation that created SRTS identifies the program’s purposes as: (1) To enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school; (2) To make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age; and (3) To facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

The roots of this particular project along High Street go back to 2013 when the City applied, through the leadership of local citizens, to the SRTS program for the first step of an infrastructure assessment, with a particular focus on the Nock-Molin schools as well as the other schools in the area.  Consultants mapped student residency information, met with staff and community members, observed school arrival and dismissal patterns, reviewed collision histories, collected traffic counts, etc., in order to identify improvements that will make walking and bicycling safer and more attractive modes of travel for children traveling to and from school (as well as everyone else).  The assessment report was issued in 2016 and proposed the High Street project, which is a $2 million project implemented by MassDOT in collaboration with the City and fully supported by federal funding.  The design of the SRTS High Street project was initiated in early 2018, and included a public hearing in June 2018.

The project addresses excessively wide pedestrian crossings of High Street, sight lines to pedestrian crossings obscured by parked vehicles, sidewalks in poor condition, and non-compliant curb ramps.  The project is consistent with the goals, objectives and primary strategies of the 2004 High Street Master Plan that was adopted by the City Council in 2008.  The evolving plans are currently at a draft final stage.  Please note that we are continuing to work with MassDOT and other stakeholders on revising certain elements of the plans.  At this point, the plans are intended to be finalized and the project bid out by the state in 2019 for construction.

Please click on the links at the upper left of this page for the current draft of the plans, the powerpoint presentation for the public hearing, the SRTS assessment report, and the 2004 master plan.  If there are questions, please contact Senior Project Manager Geordie Vining at [email protected] or (978) 465-4400.

Staff Contacts

Name Title Phone
Geordie Vining Senior Project Manager (978) 465-4400