Friday, April 17, 2009
BOS to restrict Church St. traffic to one direction
Today most of Church Street runs one-way with the exception of a small, approximately 200-foot stretch between Concord Street and School Street in front of three residences and beside the Town Common. The Board of Selectmen (BOS) unanimously voted on April 14 to make all of Church Street one-way to support the addition of a pathway, with two conditions: the pathway plan must be accepted by the Historical Commission, and the traffic might remain two-way if an alternative proposal to shift the road a few feet is adopted.
Pathway drives change
According to the Traffic Safety Advisory Committee (Police Chief, Fire Chief, DPW Superintendent and Town Administrator), the two-way traffic and driveways make the stretch of road particularly hazardous for cars as well as pedestrians as the Concord Street and School Street pathways both currently end here. Earlier, the proposed pathway was to be located on the abutters’ lawns, but is being relocated in the roadway, because one of the abutters has not responded to requests for an easement for the path.
With the addition of a pathway on the residential side, most of this section of Church Street would only be 15-feet wide, which is five feet less than town guidelines for two-way streets and one foot less than required for a one-way street. Both ends of the stretch start at 20 feet wide, but narrow in the middle portion. To widen the middle of the road in order to preserve two-way traffic, either the residents abutting the road or the First Religious Society (FRS) would have to allow an easement. The church and town share ownership of the Town Common. Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory (Pathways) Committee Chair Deb Belanger said later,“I’m hopeful that the church will accommodate a little extra pavement which is of value to everyone in town.”
The pathway project has been underway for years and the idea of making the section of Church Street one-way has been discussed before, though it was tabled when it appeared the pathway would traverse the residents’ lawns. The idea of using a strip of the Town Common to shift the roadway is new, however.
Public input invited on April 28
The Selectmen’s vote shows intent to lend support to Belanger, in closing out the first phase of the pathways project. The pathway plan will be submitted to the Historical Commission on April 28 to present the final plan for Church Street, the same night as the next BOS meeting. The Selectmen felt it important to voice their intent at this time so that the various stakeholders, including town residents, could voice their opinions about changing Church Street and/or the Town Common.
Belanger reported the process followed when one resident did not offer an easement for the pathway. She, Stevenson, Selectman Alan Carpenito, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, and DPW Superintendent Gary Davis met with the town counsel to investigate applying an eminent domain“taking” a foot from the resident abutter side to widen the way and allow a “sufficient amount for automobile traffic and pedestrian traffic.” However, they discovered it would be a multi-year process and potentially costly.
The Traffic Safety Advisory Committee decided that Church Street should be converted to a one-way road, heading east. The engineering firm Stamski and McNary has been asked to prepare a plan with the revised parameters. The plan and application for the work will go before the Historical Commission.
McKenzie said the Traffic Safety Advisory Committee would require additional stop signs, and a “no enter” sign would be posted on Church Street where it intersects with School Street. Drivers who usually turn left on to the current two-way Church Street would instead have to proceed to the end of School Street where it intersects with Westford Street (225) and turn right, go around the rotary, and then head west.
Sylvia Sillers, 49 Concord Street, spoke on behalf of herself and other abutters of the pathway at this location to reiterate that they wanted to ensure that all the alternatives had been exhausted with the FRS to accommodate a two-way road and the pathway.
Selectman Tim Hult, an FRS member, will bring the two-way proposal to the FRS Parish Committee. Nonetheless, he commented, “There hasn’t been an appetite for this in the past,” and said if the church were unwilling to cede a portion of the Common, there was no alternative but to make Church Street a one-way road. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that he was “troubled” by the Selectmen’s decision and wanted the community to have an opportunity to voice their opinion.
Carpenito advocated going ahead with the one-way plan noting that the town had already “spent a lot of engineering money” and that “we have to get this done.”
Belanger said she hopes the final work on the first phase of the Pathways project will be completed by this June. In addition to the Church Street component, additional work includes the application of the final chip-seal surface on the all the pathways in town. The work depends on good weather and the availability of the paving vendor. A year ago, on April 8, Belanger presented the Selectmen with hopes that all the phase-one work would be completed by June 2008, but a variety of issues delayed the project’s completion.
Looking ahead, Belanger was able to report the approval of a “Safeness to School” grant by the state to Carlisle, one of 40 towns. A state resource team of an engineer and planner will visit each town and work with town representatives to assess walkability for students who live within a one-mile radius of the school. A report to each town will follow. Of these, up to ten towns will receive funding to actually build additional paths. ∆
© 2009 The