Thursday, November 13, 2014
City Petitioning MassDOT to Reduce Lowell Street Speed Limit
Residents, City and Elected Officials continued conversations last night on traffic calming and safety measures needed for Lowell Street that included a handout of speeding data and a presentation on options for more permanent solutions.
According to provided data, the speed on Lowell Street has dropped. Before the chicane installation and parking change, 85% of the speed averaged 23mph (Medford Street -> Highland Avenue) and 27mph (Highland Avenue to Medford Street). Installation of the painted chicanes and transferring of parking to either side of Lowell saw improvements of 21mph and 26mph, respectively. The street, itself, is 30mph with the bridge being 25mph per MassDOT. The City of Somerville did not and cannot set the speed on the bridge as it is out of their jurisdiction.
See data handouts: http://bit.ly/1u6gGVh (Raw data was not available at the time of the meeting)
Presentation and Impact of Community Path Extension...
Transportation Director, Hayes Morrison, outlined Somerville's options for decreasing the speed limit on Lowell Street during her presentation at the Healey School meeting. Mentioning permanent solutions such as physical (and not just painted) chicanes, Morrison pointed out that the City is honing in on petitioning MassDOT to approve a decrease to 25mph. If granted, the City will install crosswalks on either side of the Lowell Street bridge with one at Princeton Street (Lowell to Highland Avenue) and the other between Wilton and Vernon (Lowell to Medford Street). The decrease will impact the entirety of Lowell Street from Somerville Avenue to Medford Street in anticipation of the increased cycle and pedestrian traffic expected with the Community Path Extension.
Although the opening of the Community Path Extension is expected in December, crosswalks on Lowell Street (pending approval) will not be implemented until the path is officially finalized in the Spring with the completion of a raised crosswalk on Cedar Street. The raised crosswalk on Cedar is part of the extension project. Morrison did agree to see if the City would allow cyclists on the portion of the path that is not currently under construction as exits into MaxWell's Green are open. She did stress, however, that people should remain off of the path until she receives an answer.
Petitioning MassDOT will prompt a Police survey of the street using radar guns to record 100 readings of cars during non-peak hours. When questioned, Morrison admitted that the City does not determine where or when the radars are used, but they have recommended four key locations according to Traffic Engineer Terry Smith. Morrison would go on to say that she is confident MassDOT will approve the reduction that will lead to two brand-new crosswalks on either side of the Lowell Street bridge.
Although Stop signs are preferred by some residents, a flashing Pedestrian Crossing sign is being seriously considered for the Albion Street crosswalk. Should the City want to move forward with permanent physical chicanes, a 6-8 month bid, interview and design period would push construction and completion into 2016. The permanent chicanes would include a curb extension and/or plantings to change the physical landscape of the street and force cars in a swerving motion. This would slow cars down and change driver perception of the street, however, this is not ideal for cyclists.
In closing, Morrison could not commit to a timeline of the steps ahead, but would work with MassDOT on the speed reduction and the City on suggested ideas from meeting attendees.