Somerville City Hall
93 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA 02143
Dear George and members of the Somerville by Design team,
Over the past few months, many public meetings have been held in Union Square that included the presentation of studies and proposals to address traffic and streetscape issues in the square. These have primarily focused on the more heavily traveled arterial roads, and while improvements to these roads are critical, Union Square Neighbors asks that the ‘Neighborhood (master) Plan’ being created for Union Square contain a comprehensive study and traffic plan that includes our neighborhood streets as well.
As things are now, there are problems with pass-through vehicles cutting through the neighborhoods around Union Square, often at inappropriate or even dangerous speeds. Changes to the McGrath Highway, upcoming construction work on Union Square’s major streets and the addition of millions of square feet in new development stand to exacerbate this problem by adding additional pressure for cut-through trips in the adjacent neighborhoods.
At the Union Square “Visioning” meeting held on January 7 and 31, the safety benefits of vehicle speeds being limited to 20 mph or less were presented. We strongly agree with this as a goal for our neighborhood streets. Communities across country, including some right next to Somerville, have reduced vehicle speeds and discouraged pass through traffic while beautifying their neighborhoods at the same time through the addition of streetscaping and traffic calming devices which make the maximum comfortable speed for drivers a safe speed for pedestrians and children. Very nearby Union Square, a traffic table was installed in Concord Square that appears to be successful at reducing vehicle speeds and discouraging or mitigating the effect of cut-through traffic. Traffic calming provides round-the-clock speed enforcement rather than depending on officers to enforce speeds on a sporadic schedule.
Over the past year and a half, a group of neighbors on Prospect Hill has done some preliminary outreach within that neighborhood to determine potential solutions in this neighborhood. With the help and support of Mayor Curtatone and Ward 3 Alderman Bob McWatters, we have met with City officials to discuss this and produced some preliminary analysis that suggests the most important locations for traffic calming, as well as treatments that would be acceptable and have the most impact. Building on this preliminary work in one neighborhood, we ask that the Union Square ‘Neighborhood Plan’ include:
- Neighborhood Traffic Calming Plans – We ask that the City work with all of the neighborhoods surrounding Union Square to develop detailed traffic calming plans that would be implemented as development in Union Square moves forward.
- We also ask that any proposed changes to traffic patterns for Union Square formally evaluate the effect on abutting neighborhoods.
- Connect neighborhoods to the Community Path – Residents of neighborhoods around Union Square need to be able to comfortably get from their neighborhood streets to access the future Community Path. We ask that routes from the neighborhoods around Union Square to access points on the Path be identified and comfortable pedestrian and bicycle facilities be prioritized in the design of streets along these routes.
- Safe routes to school – Many parents and children find it uncomfortable to travel to Union Square’s neighborhood schools by foot or bicycle due to fast automobile traffic, as well as inadequate sidewalks and bicycle facilities. We ask that safe routes to school be identified and accounted for in the planning of streets along these routes.
Union Square Neighbors Traffic Calming Work Group: Eric Fellinger, Patricia Berman, Suzanne Bremer, David Dinklage, Sam Engelstad, Erin Hemenway, Annette McGloin, Renee Scott, Avron Segal, Dominique Stassart, Tim Talun
Co signed: Maryann Heuston, Ward 2 Aldermen Bob McWatters, Ward 3 Aldermen, Nicole Dupre, James McCrea, Aileen & Mike Bellwood, Ruth Ronen, Sagi Ronen, Amy Deaner, Gys Sean Hockert, Greer Goodman, Joe Beckmann, Janine Fay, Deborah Pacini, Steve Mulder, Tim Ryan, Tara McCaffrey Andrew, Lindsey & Violet Sudbury, Sheryl Sarokas, Leonard Nuth, Elizabeth Aureden, Victoria Antonino, Michael Monroe, Erika Fellinger, Steve Hoey, James Baab, Corey Tedrow, Andrew Kopacz, Lhadon & Dhondup Phunkhang, Ray Warburton, Andy Pyman, Marcy Barnes, Debbie Hellweg, Juliet Perron, Rob Buchanan
Joseph A. Curtatone, Mayor, City of Somerville
Somerville Board of Aldermen
Jennifer Molina, Transportation Planner