Needham is mourning — and questioning pedestrian safety

Needham High students carried a banner to a makeshift memorial for two students who were struck and killed while crossing a road.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Needham High students carried a banner to a makeshift memorial for two students who were struck and killed while crossing a road.

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NEEDHAM — As the town mourns two teenagers who were killed while crossing a busy street near the high school on Saturday, residents are calling on local officials to move quickly to improve public safety.

“You try to think about what good can come out of this,” said Peter Sullivan, one of about 50 people who attended a meeting of the Traffic Management Advisory Committee Wednesday night. “This seems like a good place to start.”

The committee’s monthly meeting fell just days after Talia Newfield, 16, and Adrienne Garrido, 17, were fatally injured while crossing Webster Street near Needham High School.


Two vehicles were involved in the crash, which occurred at about 5 p.m. near the intersection with Holland Street. Both drivers remained at the scene. The crash remains under investigation, and no charges have yet been filed, according to the Norfolk district attorney’s office.

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Newfield’s funeral at Temple Aliyah in Needham on Tuesday drew about 1,000 people, including dozens of classmates. A similar turnout is expected for Garrido’s funeral at St. Joseph’s Church on Saturday.

Stephen DeLisi, the committee chairman, opened the meeting with a moment of silence for “the victims and their families, and everybody who is affected by this.”

Residents who packed the small room at the town’s public services building offered a variety of suggestions: improve the visibility of crosswalks; upgrade lighting on streets and sidewalks; install better signals to alert drivers to people in crosswalks; fill three vacant crossing guard positions; and lower speed limits around town.

John Hilliard/For The Boston Globe
Dozens of Needham residents attended the Traffic Management Advisory Committee meeting.

Resident Brenda Curran called for a review of streets and crossings near the high school. As she spoke, about 20 residents, including Sullivan and his son, Kyle, 16, stood in support.


“While it is impossible to make sense of what happened, it is helpful to seek solutions to prevent future tragedies,” Curran said, reading from prepared remarks. “And while it may seem too early, the safety of our crosswalks is an immediate and fixable problem in our eyes.”

DeLisi said town officials have been flooded with requests from residents to review the safety of streets around the high school. But the committee can only recommend changes to the Board of Selectmen, he explained.

Selectman John Bulian told residents, “We will move forward with some ways of mitigating and creating better pedestrian safety in this town.”

Bulian said the selectmen have scheduled a discussion on pedestrian safety for March 27. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. at town hall, according to the town’s website.

Some residents interviewed at the meeting said the town must do all it can to prevent another pedestrian tragedy.


“As a community, everybody is looking at this and thinking, ‘My goodness, a 16- and 17-year-old have died. What can we do about it?’” said Georgina Arrieta-Ruetenik. “Folks just feel like something needs to be done.”

Nancy Sterling, whose daughter walks to classes at Needham High School, said residents need to take an active role in pushing for better safety.

“The major change that needs to be made is for recognition, for citizens to realize what is happening here, “ she said. “It’s more of a community conversation about this, and how to address it.”

In an interview earlier Wednesday, public works director Rick Merson said the town has worked for several years to improve pedestrian safety on streets near Needham High, including Webster Street and Highland Avenue.

Improvements were made to signage, crosswalks, and lighting, he said. Still, he acknowledged residents are concerned about speeding near the high school. The speed limit on that stretch of Webster Street is 30 miles per hour.

In the wake of the fatal crash, officials may conduct speed studies and traffic counts of the area to gain more data. A review of traffic and pedestrian areas across town is also possible, he said.

“We feel the connection to safety,” Merson said. “That’s what our job is.”

Emily Sweeney of the Globe Staff contributed. John Hilliard can be reached at