I know I just put out a very long newsletter earlier this week, but here’s some more detailed updates specifically on traffic and roadway issues that people have been asking about around Lincoln Park.
As a reminder, there’s lots of ways to get in touch with me: email, phone, or even drop by my weekly office hours every Friday from 8-10am, at 269 Washington St. (In fact, I’m typing this up as I sit here waiting to see if anyone stops by today. 🙂 ) There’s also a meetup being set up for March 20 at 7pm.
One more thing before I dive into the traffic and parking stuff: if you live in the Lincoln Park area, please attend the zoning neighborhood meeting next Saturday, Feb 24 from 3pm-5pm – at CrossFit Somerville, 35 Prospect St. We’ll be talking about the zoning specifically as it pertains to the Lincoln Park area and how it affects what you can do with your home and what can be built in your neighborhood. I’m preparing graphics and posters to help understand and discuss the proposed zoning.
The transportation department is interested in a neighborhood meeting to listen to concerns and update the neighborhood about the data they’re collecting, but I know y’all are anxious to hear about what direction things are moving. Here’s my notes from the most recent meeting – and I’ll be sure to let you know when a neighborhood meeting is scheduled.
Washington and Webster Intersection
Six months into the change to these intersections (and two-way traffic on Prospect and Webster), the Transportation department has been hearing our complaints and measuring the traffic to see what impact the changes have had.
While the good news is that overall vehicles moving through Union Square has gone down 25%, and no increase in accidents, there have been some negative impacts. In particular, getting through the Webster and Washington intersection has been worse. (Reality didn’t match the city’s projections.) The need seems apparent for protected left turns onto Bow and Webster, and the pedestrian crossing has gotten substantially more scary – a finding that is supported by the data on how many “pedestrian/car conflicts” measured in the crosswalks.
The goal was to keep the light cycles short, keep cars moving, and allow pedestrians to cross more frequently. The unintended result was jammed intersections due to conflicting left turns and crosswalks that never really feel safe.
Solutions for this will need to include either re-timing the signals to allow a “virtual protected left” (by staggering the green lights) or installing new stoplights that have a Left-Arrow. The Transportation Dept is looking at both of these options, and is also considering a return to the “all stop” lighting pattern that would allow the crosswalks to feel much more safe. This is especially important considering the heavy child foot traffic to and from Prospect Hill Academy, Argenziano School, and the CAAS Head Start.
Reprogramming the signals will cost money and time in engineering effort, and installing new Left-Arrow lights would cost somewhere north of $10k. Any change to the light cycles requires the city to commission more engineering review time to try to make sure the light changes don’t cause worse downstream problems.
Change is coming, though. According to the city, they are looking at getting some changes in place to the Washington intersections and Webster and Prospect Streets by the end of March.
SIDE STREET TRAFFIC METRICS
The question of “where did that 25% of cars in Union Square go” is a concerning one especially for Lincoln Park, Concord Square, and the Houghton/Oak neighborhoods where people have been reporting increased traffic.
In order to measure this and make a plan to address it, the city has acquired a bunch of new “roadway tubes” that they can lay down on side streets to get accurate counts of traffic volume, type, and speed for low cost (relative to the cost of a city planner standing around on a sidewalk all day with a clipboard).
They have started by looking at Perry, Concord, Webster, and Springfield, and will hopefully be showing us more of that data in an upcoming neighborhood meeting.
91 BUS ROUTE and INMAN SQUARE
The news is less hopeful here from my perspective. We saw some data on number of pickups and dropoffs along Springfield and in Concord Square. The MBTA seems to be convinced of the value of straightening that route and increasing frequency of the 91 bus, rather than maintaining the jog down Springfield.
Brad Rawson and city staff will be meeting with the MBTA again next Wednesday as part of what he described as “building working relationships” and to discuss the 91 route (among others) as transit continues to change in and around Union Square. He was not interested in having aldermen present at that meeting, but I’ll be looking for an update from him late next week.
One good piece of info out of this discussion was that Mike Tremblay from the city’s transportation department is attending every meeting of the Cambridge city working group that has been developing the Inman Square changes. We can’t necessarily dictate what happens there, but I’m glad we have city staff in the room and will be having more conversations with Mr Tremblay to stay updated – and keep you updated as well.
WEBSTER STREET PLAN
The news is better here. After a long season of Eversource gas work on the east side of Webster, and the removal of parking on both sides between Union Square and the Cambridge line, traffic on Webster is moving faster and the roadway is a mess.
Currently, Eversource is on the hook to re-pave their half of Webster Street and that is planned in the spring. The city doesn’t have an exact timeline on that, but we’ll be putting pressure on Eversource to get it done in April rather than June. At the same time, the city will be trying to resurface the west side of the street to get it all done in one pass.
After the road is resurfaced, the plan is to paint bike lanes on each side and install more of the “flex post” markers that we’ve seen in Union Square. This will make cycling and driving in this stretch safer – and the presence of the visual markers will hopefully also reduce speeds back down to normal on Webster Street.
The removal of parking on Webster has definitely pressured parking along the side streets nearby including Tremont, Norfolk, and Columbia. I have a board order in requesting additional parking enforcement, and will be asking for data about how many tickets are being written down there for non-resident parking in those areas.
SIDEWALK REPAIR SEASON
Sidewalk repair season is coming! While 311 is still a great way to let the city know what you’re concerned about I also encourage you to copy me on the email confirmation you get from the city.
DPW will be going out and fixing issues as reported, but if there’s a lot of need for sidewalk fixes in a particular stretch of road a better approach may be a comprehensive sidewalk reconstruction coordinated with Engineering and Transportation. Hearing from you will help me get that conversation going – and maybe get us all better sidewalks.
EVERSOURCE GAS WORK on OAK ST
I have heard from a few people about some late night work on Oak Street. That was in fact a gas leak, and they sent emergency crews out to jackhammer around midnight to get the leak fixed. This has been a persistent issue down there, and I’m hopeful that they found the problem this time.
With that said, communication and cooperation with Eversource has been a sore spot all over the city for quite some time. At the most recent meeting of the Public Utilities and Public Works Committee, we passed a restriction that doesn’t allow the city to issue permits for non-emergency gas work until Eversource has presented a concrete communication plan for the neighborhood. I’m hoping that will encourage some more neighborly interactions with Eversource and increase accountability in the process.
I’m following up with Eversource and the city administration on continuing Oak Street work and hope to have some more information in the next update!
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see y’all soon!