City officials presented an updated traffic calming plan for Yale Avenue — aka “Anarchy Road” — that now includes speed humps and a raised crosswalk in addition to the previous proposal’s two-way cycletrack and over 300 new parking spaces along Edgewood Park.
Most neighbors welcomed the plan. The only question left before city officials can make these plans a reality is: will the neighborhood’s alder support the project?
That was the upshot of a follow-up community meeting Wednesday evening at Edgewood School, where 30 Westville neighbors gathered in one of the downstairs classrooms to check in on the city’s latest traffic-calming proposal for the stretch of Yale Avenue between West Rock Avenue and Chapel Street.
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Several elements of the proposal will require the approval of the Traffic Authority, which in turn first requires a letter of support from the neighborhood’s alder. In that case the alder is Adam Marchand, who was in attendance on Wednesday night.
Marchand told the group that he had not yet decided on how he will act on this proposal. He encouraged his constituents to email him over the next week with thoughts on the city’s plans. During the meeting itself, he offered early praise.
“Can we modify behavior of the majority of the people who are open to behaving a little differently?” Marchand asked about drivers who currently speed down Yale Avenue without even knowing they are speeding. “I think this [plan] will.”
Wednesday’s presentation was a follow up to a June 1 meeting that saw over 50 Westville residents berate city staff for focusing too much on reorganizing the block’s bike lanes and not enough on implementing elements that will slow speeding traffic on what some residents refer to as “Anarchy Road.”
In what turned out to be less of a formal presentation and more of an hour-and-a-half conversation and question-and-answer session, City Engineer Giovanni Zinn Wednesday night walked the attendees through the new version of the plan.
The city plans to add four new speed humps to Yale Avenue: two within the sharp curve between West Rock and West Elm Street, and two between West Elm and Edgewood Avenue. The city also plans on adding an elevated crosswalk at the intersection of West Elm and Yale to allow pedestrians to cut across the avenue to get into Edgewood Park.
Yale Avenue resident Harold Houston asked Zinn how the city’s chose where to put the speed humps.
Zinn responded that the city tries to space the speed humps out by 300 or 400 feet so that they’re not too close to one another that they become annoying to regular drivers, but they’re not far enough away from one another they fail to reduce speeding.
“It’s a corridor effect of trying to keep them slowed down throughout,” Zinn said about how the four speed humps and the raised intersection will work together.
Zinn and city Transportation, Traffic & Parking (TTP) Director Doug Hausladen also said that the city will reorganize the avenue’s existing bike lanes, which are on either side of the street, into one nine-foot-wide, protected mixed use path (for both bikes and pedestrians) on the park side of the street. The path will be separated from the roadway by a two-foot buffer and two-foot-high white, reflective delineators.
“From an engineering perspective, this is more than you proposed before,” said Yale Avenue resident Sharon Ostfeld-Johns. “From an engineer perspective, this is a really great proposal.”
Yale Avenue resident and local gallery owner Gabriel Da Silva agreed that the plans are an improvement over those presented last month.
“We don’t have anything right now,” he said. “I want something.” These plans, he said, are certainly better than nothing.
Houston challenged city staff to not forget about enforcing existing speed limits in their plans to calm traffic on the avenue.
“This is going to be nice, nice, nice,” Houston said. “but it does nothing about enforcement.”
Zinn said that traffic calming comes down to “Three E’s”: engineering, education, and enforcement. He said these plans represent the Engineering Department’s take on how to calm traffic for the 80th percentile speed — that is, for drivers going at 80 percent or less of all of the speeds seen on Yale Avenue. For the 20 percent above that threshold, he said, that’s where police enforcement comes in.
“Pound for pound, we’ve probably had more dine-in traffic-calming than any neighborhood in the city,” Marchand said, referencing completed and proposed projects on Whalley Avenue, Chapel Street, Alden Avenue, Edgewood Avenue, and Cleveland Road.
Zinn said each speed hump costs between $6,000 and $9,000, and the raised crosswalk will cost between $15,000 and $20,000. Overall, he said, the capital fund project looks like it will cost around $60,000 to complete.
He said the city put out a bid last month for a contractor to work on a number of traffic-calming projects, including whatever the final proposal winds up being for Yale Avenue. He said the city must now sign a contract with the contractor and get approval from the Traffic Authority. Then it will be able to implement these traffic calming elements sometime this fall.
Bus Parking Dispute
Zinn received the most pushback on Wednesday night on proposed parking regulations for the stretch of Yale Avenue adjacent to Edgewood School.
Zinn and Hausladen said they plan to create a school zone where, between 2 and 5 p.m. on weekdays, six parking spots on the west side of Yale Avenue right outside of the school will be reserved exclusively for school buses.
Since this side of the avenue is also residential, Zinn said, the city will lay down painted stripes outside of the driveways for each of the houses in between the school bus parking spots to indicate to anyone looking to drop off or pick up their children from school that they cannot park at the top of someone’s driveway.
Steve Judd, who lives in one of the Yale Avenue homes adjacent to the school, said the plan would only exacerbate the difficulties he has had for over a decade with school-related traffic blocking his driveway.
“You’re taking parking away from my house in order to have a two-way bike lane,” he said. “This is a bike lane plan. This is not a traffic-calming plan.”
Zinn said the idea behind the school parking zone regulation is to eliminate the current illegal double parking that takes place in front of the school. Right now, he said, cars park in the legal parking spaces on the west side of Yale Avenue. And then school buses double park alongside those cars as they pick up school children in the afternoon. This regulation, he said, will eliminate that double parking on school day afternoons.
Hausladen said the addition of over 300 new legal park-side parking spots will also provide plenty of spaces for cars who may otherwise have parked in Judd’s driveway. He said he is happy to provide the residents who lives near the six proposed bus spaces with a direct phone number to his parking enforcement team, so that they can respond immediately to any violations.