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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

City Officials Host Follow-Up Meeting on Lowell Street Safety

Close to 40 residents filled the third floor community room of the VNA on Monday night to review design plans to decrease speeding on Lowell Street, the urban connector of Highland Avenue and Medford Street. City officials, however, entered the meeting under the impression they were there to gather feedback and ideas from residents and business owners about their experiences navigating the street and short-term fixes to make the street safer. See the problem? It didn't take long for frustrations to come to a head as this miscommunication became very apparent to both sides. Going forward, I think it would be advantageous to better connect what the community is expecting to hear and what City officials are expected to present. Bringing this many concerned citizens together only to find out that meeting details have not been organized and properly stated is not fair to anyone involved. 

Keeping the meeting moving along, residents offered suggestions such as pedestrian lights on either side of the Lowell Street bridge to slow cars (before they get on the bridge) which would also allow safer crossing at the top. MassDOT officials made it very clear that they have no intention of putting a curb cut to allow cyclists and pedestrians to exit off of the sidewalk at the very top of the bridge citing safety issues. A representative from the Somerville Police Department backed up the MassDOT stance, pointing out that there was no need to travel from one side of the bridge to the other by crossing as users of the path have entrances on both sides. A suggestion of a Stop sign at Albion Street was quickly squashed due to laws that prevent the installation of such signs to "slow traffic down" because of increases in rear-end collisions. 

The question of how the $200K+ earmarked for traffic calming measures has been/will be spent was also brought up. Officials acknowledged that the painting of the chicanes may have been paid for out of these funds, but could not confirm. 

Some good news that came out of the meeting was the announcement that the extension of the Community Path could become available to the public as early as June 15th. Also announced was the 25% design phase of the Lowell Street bridge and that they are only 1 year away from design completion. Lastly, MassDOT did mention their plans to place crosswalks on both sides of the Lowell Street bridge, but no timeline on these installations was provided.

For those who want to see designs, MassDOT will be hosting a public hearing on the Lowell Street and Gilman Square Stations Thursday May 21st from 6-8pm in the Armory (191 Highland Avenue). MassDOT representatives said they would "take on the responsibility" of providing more concrete plans for Lowell Street at this public hearing. 

You can also find more information on the project, including past presentations and meeting minutes, on the MassDOT website.


Anonymous said...

This speeding issue has been "kicked about" by the authorities for several years now.

Plain and simple, place a SPD unmarked cruiser (not the same one for 12 hours) bur for one 12 hour day, at that venue. No need for an officer issuing tickets; but just to observe the speed of vehicles going in both directions as testimony to the fact the problem exists.

Mught be surprised to find out one of the frequent violaters are Somerville's DPW drivers.
Postal trucks, Fed-X, and USPS drivers follow.

These same drivers are also speeding on the several side-streets in that area. Again DPW drivers are the worst offenders.

Tell your guys to slow down please!

Anonymous said...

Think the only real way to help this issue is to make Lowell Street one-way the entire length of the street instead of just on the Highland Ave - Elm Street side.

Having only one direction for cars to travel would at least mitigate the danger caused by having oncoming cars speeding down narrow lanes while also trying to avoid cyclists and parked cars.

Even if you can't stop people speeding, there would be less cars to deal with.