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Springfield had second-highest pedestrian fatalities in the state, 2023 report finds

 Light traffic on a street in Springfield, Mass.
Doug Kerr
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/dougtone
Light traffic on a street in Springfield, Mass.

The city of Springfield is just under Boston in 2023 pedestrian deaths by motor vehicles despite large population difference, the third annual WalkMassachusetts report details.

A new WalkMassachusetts report released Friday found that Springfield had the second-highest pedestrian fatalities by motor vehicles in the state this past year. The pedestrian safety advocacy group cited Boston as having the most pedestrian deaths by motor vehicle in 2023 with eight fatalities – just above Springfield, which had seven fatalities.

Although Boston held the highest amount of pedestrian deaths in the annual report, local advocacy group WalkBike Springfield believes the city is the most dangerous place for pedestrians across the state.

The report notes that Springfield, which contains about 154,064 residents as of 2022, has a much smaller population size than Boston (650,706 residents as of 2022), raising concerns over the two municipalities' closeness in pedestrian deaths.

The third annual report also found that Springfield had 19 total fatal motor accidents in 2023, whereas Boston had 16.

WalkBike Springfield advocate and resident Betsey Johnson is calling for more updated infrastructure, like an increase in crosswalk installment, narrowed roadways and a speed limit decrease from 30 to 25 mph in some residential neighborhood areas.

Johnson said the five miles-per-hour speed decrease in neighborhoods can be done quickly and without excessive cost.

“Are they perfect in terms of getting people to slow down? No. But do they make a difference? Yes, especially if they really just became widespread all over the city,” Johnson said, also noting the issue of distracted drivers and pedestrians alike.

In February, the federal Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program awarded the city of Springfield $15 million to implement safer road infrastructure.

“Slowly there are starting to be some improvements,” Johnson said, although she said it is unclear where exactly in the city the projects will take place.

WalkBike Springfield also wants more transparency and proactivity from the city’s Traffic Commission, which currently does not have a listed link to the specific commission’s website on the city’s Boards and Commissions page. Johnson wishes the commission could involve more residential input.

Johnson, who used to live in Boston, says the positive difference between Boston’s street safety infrastructure from over a decade ago to now is “overnight.” Boston is currently working to install 500 new speed humps in some residential areas across the city.

“It’s a tug-and-pull to try and get information [from the city of Springfield] ahead of time, and at a point where we can actually potentially make a difference,” Johnson said.

Springfield officials did not respond to a request for comment on the WalkMassachusetts report, or any future plans to help pedestrian safety.

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