Smith College and City of Northampton – Northampton, MA

Northampton Pedestrian Safety and Intersection Design

Smith College is split by State Route 9, the major arterial connecting Northampton to points west. It separates Smith’s academic buildings from its residential areas, and in the wake of two student fatalities crossing and bicycling through campus, something needed to be done to improve the intersections.

Rather than apply standard safety warrants to each crossing, Nelson\Nygaard took a holistic approach that looked at overall crossing desires in the entire corridor. Through community workshops, analysis of count and speed data, and real-time desire line observations, Nelson\Nygaard arrived at a solution that begins to heighten driver awareness and reduce vehicle speeds in advance of the primary crossings.

Nelson\Nygaard’s concept was warmly received by Smith, the City of Northampton, its review committees, and local residents resulting in the awarding of a contract for Nelson\Nygaard to complete full design documents. The final design incorporates a series of passive roadway, sidewalk, signing, and markings treatments that narrow drivers’ perceived road space and greatly enhance visibility of crosswalks.

However, a large inhospitable intersection at the gateway to downtown terminated the corridor. Beyond our scope, we suggested an improvement concept that won immediate support with the City, who then asked Nelson\Nygaard to test other innovations in their downtown similar to those at Smith. We conducted a three-day design charrette that recast the community’s vision to embrace a less auto-oriented downtown that could still process just as many cars – but more safely. The concept designs are now being fully tested by the regional planning authority for future capital projects. Meanwhile, the City again hired Nelson\Nygaard to develop a detailed design of the gateway intersection and initiate a pilot. That pilot was installed in 2014.