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Monday, June 30, 2014

Residents Gather to Discuss Safety on Lowell Street

After significant car accidents this past year, residents and City Officials gathered on June 25th to have a conversation about abutters' personal experiences, as well as, traffic calming proposals to make Lowell Street safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. 

Volunteer Jason Schrieber of Nelson\Nygaard, a consulting firm that offers traffic analysis services and was recently hired by the Maxwell's Green development team to conduct a study, gave attendees an overview of where cars are likely to speed along Lowell Street between Highland Avenue and Medford Street, as well as, what methods offer the quickest and cheapest calming results. A handout of pages 48-53 of the recently released Lowell Street Station Area Plan courtesy of Somerville by Design was provided, as well.

When one thinks of traffic calming measures, raised crosswalks, stop signs and speed bumps usually come to mind. All of them are useful, according to Schrieber, but the environment has to warrant it. For example, a high pedestrian traffic rate would make stop signs and raised crosswalks necessary, however, if a driver does not see a need to stop or slow down, they won't. Speed enforcement was also brought up during the meeting, however, a constant Police presence would not be cost effective and would bring short term results as speeding would resume once it was realized that Police were no longer present.

A raised crosswalk, which will be installed at the Community Path Extension intersection on Cedar Street, was quickly opposed by a Somerville Fire Fighter who admitted that he has hit the roof of apparatus when navigating the City because of the abrupt incline and drop of the design. Schrieber agreed and pointed out that a raised crosswalk, at this time, is not needed on Lowell Street. This could change, however, with the arrival of the Green Line Extension and the increased pedestrian traffic that will bring. Schrieber felt the same way about a Stop Sign on Lowell at Vernon Street.

Each option was described and eliminated, leaving chicanes as the cheapest and quickest method of slowing down vehicular speeding, according to Schrieber. 

Wikipedia defines chicanes as an artificial feature creating extra turns in a road, used in motor racing and on streets to slow traffic for safety. Incorporated on Columbia Street in Cambridge, chicanes force lateral deflection, naturally, slowing down traffic as it makes the driver perceive the road as unpredictable. Chicanes can use permanent features such as bump-outs and plantings or, as the City of Somerville would like to use on Lowell Street, basic grid painting and moving some parking spaces on the opposite side of the street, creating a zig-zag effect that would force cars to slow down. By decreasing the speed of vehicles down Lowell Street, cyclists will be able to exit side streets safer and pedestrians can cross with more confidence.

Despite MassDOT's insistence that the bridge meets all sigh-line requirements, residents and abutters would like to see more safety precautions including a light for Maxwell's Green residents and a crosswalk for users of the Community Path Extension. MassDOT has refused both.

Abutters brought up their own observations concerning Lowell Street that included increased traffic on Trull Street by motorists avoiding the light at Lowell and Medford, near-collisions that have forced some cars into the yards of Hudson Street homeowners, and difficult exiting Vernon Street. Recently, the Traffic Commission approved the removal of parking at corner of Lowell and Vernon to ease entering Vernon from Lowell and prevent further congestion at that intersection. The parking signs should be removed in the coming weeks, according to a City Official. Traffic data that has been compiled for the past few months is promised to be released this week, as well.


Anonymous said...

Today,Tuesday--2nd July.....going north (before the bridge)
I observed Traffic & Parking Personnel putting up new parking restrictions where needed most; between Albion and the bridge.

Hopefully, same will be done on the Vernon Street side of the bridge.

Anonymous said...

I believe other traffic signs, relating to pedistrians, were going up too.
Some "powers" at that meeting were listening.

Generally: it appears... "THE AMERICAN WAY".... regarding a dangerous situation, such a situation is not addressed or corrected until someone is killed or badly injured.

Absent corrective action,only a matter of time before someone is killed or injured on that Lowell Street corridor.

Case in point: unfortuneately,recently, the 90 year old woman struck and killed by a turning truck, Davis Square.

Anonymous said...

Right about the problems at Davis Square.

With the tragic ladies death, now many of the sitting Somerville politicians, being politically inclined, are now "screaming" for
immediate safety measures to be taken in and around Davis.

Anonymous said...

Issues on Lowell Street have been brought up FOR YEARS. We did not need a death, an accident or anything tragic. We walk, bike and drive on this death strip and now we are finally being listened to.

Anonymous said...

Correct, issues on Lowell Street have been brought up for years. Issues also have been brought up for years in and around Davis Square.

Difference being, it took a lady being killed in Davis Square to "awaken" the authorities need for immediate action.

Thank God, action is now being taken on the Lowell corridor BEFORE a tragic incident occurring.

As one poster (above)stated: only a matter of time when a death, accident, etc. on Lowell would of got the authorities off their duffs.

For once, through some many people complaining about the Lowell problems, we are getting some results; absent needing a tragic event occurring.

Also, a side note!
The "traffic experts" often mention statistics showing that approximately 99% of drivers driving Lowell Street are not a problem regarding excessive speed, reckless driving, etc.

It's not the approximately 99% good drivers that concern us.
It's the approximately 1% of stupid drivers that concern us. They are the ones creating the dangerous situations--putting persons and property in harm's way.