Facing many critics from the public that showed up to speak against two-way Broadway, the City Council on Monday decided to defer any vote and, instead, hold a Committee on Conference to review the matter.
In August, the Traffic Commission voted 5-1 to approve the two-way plan, as well as a spate of many other non-controversial changes to Fay Square, Chelsea Square, Bellingham Square and City Hall Avenue.
Council President Damali Vidot called for the committee, and the Council approved the move. She said they had until Oct. 6 to hold the meeting and to have a vote of the full Council. The City Council must approve all actions of the Traffic Commission, but if they do not do so by Oct. 6, the Commission’s approval will become law.
Many on the Council have not made their opinions known yet, but some have, and ultimately the fate of two-way Broadway will fall on the votes of 11 members of the Council.
Council President Vidot has been critical of the idea, and has particularly disagreed with the planning process that has unfolded over the past two years. In the past, she has been against the change.
Councillor Leo Robinson, however, said this week he is in favor of two-way Broadway.
“I’m a two-way Broadway guy,” he said.
Councillor Joe Perlatonda has also spoke in favor of the plan, and said the one-way plan is dangerous because it calls for cars to park outside of the protected bike lane. He said that would leave those exiting their cars in a dangerous position with oncoming traffic and with oncoming bicyclists.
Meanwhile, Councillor Bob Bishop said he doesn’t buy the idea of two-way Broadway. To this point, he said he isn’t convinced it’s a good change.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes are some of the biggest advocates, and though they don’t have a vote, they have strongly called for the change for months.
Resident Sharleen McLain, however, was one of several residents who said the plan is flawed and has been forced upon the public.
“From the very first it was clear the City Manager and the planners have been pretty bent on getting two-way Broadway,” she said. “They’ve been pretty manipulative in moving forward on this two-way plan. None of these meetings have allowed for meaningful input. It wasn’t until the July Traffic Commission meeting that members of the public were able to speak directly to the plans.”
Said Barbara Richard, “I think two-way Broadway is spot-on dead wrong. Businesses will go under. I also think it hasn’t been a good enough outreach to the community.”
Ambrosino said he is in favor of the two-way plan, but he implored the Council to consider the plan is much more than just the two-way Broadway situation. He said there are many, many more non-controversial changes in the package that people do want universally.
“Much of what is before you is non-controversial,” he said. “Whether it’s Fay Square, Bellingham Square or City Hall Avenue, these provisions have no opposition to the changes.”
The Council will meet next on Monday, Sept. 24, and the Conference Committee will likely take place next week.
The good news for Chelsea residents is that the $5 million redesign of the Broadway business district is moving forward, and a final decision will be made by the City Council about its exact components next month.
And if the vision and innovativeness that City Manager Tom Ambrosino fostered in all parts of Revere can be matched here, then Chelsea residents can expect a Broadway and Bellingham Square bustling with activity and commerce.
But a big question about “The New Broadway” remains: Should the six city blocks from Williams Street to City Hall Avenue be a one-way street (as it exists now and has for many decades) or a two-way street?
The Chelsea Traffic Commission hosted a public meeting Tuesday night at City Hall to hear residents’ opinions about the potential change of Broadway to a two-way street. The Commission is scheduled to vote on the matter at its next meeting before the Council casts the final vote about the entire redesign project, including the traffic plan.
Alexander Train, Chelsea’s assistant director of the department of planning and development, gave a thorough presentation of the re-imagined Broadway project that will totally transform the business district’s intersections, sidewalks, bicycle paths, tree pits, and physical appearance.
“We’ve completed the planning and development portion of the process and we’re now approaching the Traffic Commission to vote and adopt and enact the plan,” said Train. “Their vote will be relayed to City Council, who has the authority to approve or reject their decision.”
Police Chief Brian Kyes spoke in favor of a two-way Broadway, saying it would improve the flow of traffic.
“If a person double parks his vehicle, we have a reason to tow the vehicle ASAP,” said Kyes. “We want to keep the traffic flowing.”
Kyes said he was happy to hear that the intersection of Broadway and Third Street will have traffic lights in the redesign project. “Broadway and Third is probably one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire state,” said Kyes.
He said that when he drove from the police station to City Hall for the meeting, “the backup when I got to Hawthorne Street was incredible, because everybody is making the loop (around Broadway). I think the final [redesign] project makes a lot of sense. I drive down Broadway, Revere all the time and I very, very rarely see double parking there.” Councillor-at-Large Damlili
Vidot said she would like to see the city pay more attention to cleaning up Broadway (such as removing the weed in the metal grates). She also disputed the claim that two-way traffic would curtail double parking and that it would make it safer for pedestrians. She also asked about potential back-ups on the Tobin Bridge and how it would affect traffic on a two-way Broadway.
Vidot said she was not happy with the swiftness of the entire redesign process.
“I urge everyone to just take several steps back and let’s figure out a way to engage more people,” said Vidot. “The way that this process has gone, having a meeting in the middle of summer when the City Council isn’t even meeting – in a hot room where everyone is aggravated and we had to wait 10 minutes to even start the meeting, all of it is just not right.”
Ambrosino, who favors a two-way Broadway, said the traffic configuration should not predominate the discussion of the redesign project.
“That’s only a small part of the reimaging Broadway,” said Ambrosino. “Many of the improvements [to Bellingham Square, Fay Square, City Hall Avenue, traffic signals at dangerous intersections] are happening regardless of which of these two configurations between Williams and Fifth Streets is chosen. Even the one-way configuration is a major improvement over the two-lane speedway that currently exists on Broadway. The two-way configuration is still safer, calmer, and slower for bicylists and pedestrians.”
Ambrosino said the two-way configuration will be “transformative.”
“It will make a difference to the feel and the look of that downtown. It makes it vibrant. It makes it aesthetically pleasing. This will be better for pedestrians, for traffic, and for businesses.”
Rick Gordon, owner of Allen Cut Rite on Broadway, said the No. 1 issue in the downtown district is parking. “I personally prefer a one-way plan for the flow of traffic. The street is much narrower than other communities and I don’t think two-way makes a business more visible.”
Gordon credited the Chelsea Police for their efforts in slowing down motorists and enforcing double-parking restrictions on Broadway. Some residents at the meeting had noted that double-parking is a recurring issue on Broadway.
Councillor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda, whose family owns Tito’s Bakery, asked whether the City Council will have to vote on the redesign project in its entirety as opposed to voting on individual components such as the traffic configuration, and the placement of new bus stops and traffic lights on Broadway.
Following more than two hours of discussion, the one-way/two-way Broadway issue remains a hotly debated one and all eyes will be on the Traffic Commission when it convenes for a vote at its next meeting.WE should be Ambrosino said he favors a two-way Broadway
The decision for whether or not to make the Broadway business corridor into a two-way street will come down to a vote of the Traffic Commission on Tuesday, July 24.
Several City officials have already weighed in on the issue, and it could be the most significant change to the surging downtown area in decades.
Two-way Broadway came about during the Re-Imaging Broadway workshops and study that were done all last year. Consultants suggested many options to improve the circulation and vibrancy of Broadway, and one of them was the possibility of making the street two-way instead of one-way.
The biggest backer of the plan is City Manager Tom Ambrosino, who has pledged that, if approved, he would stake his tenure on making the plan work. This week, he said he is still very much in favor of the idea.
“I’m a full supporter of Two-Way Broadway,” he said. “I believe the change will be transformative for the Downtown, both in terms of pedestrian and vehicular safety and in aesthetics. I will be advocating strongly for a favorable vote.”
Meanwhile, Council President Damali Vidot is not feeling the change. She said she appreciates the enthusiasm, but feels it’s a bad idea.
“I think it’s a horrible idea and one we’re not quite ready for,” she said. “Before the City goes changing long-time driving patterns on Broadway, we should deal with our existing parking and traffic issues and how to activate the businesses in that area. I appreciate the ambition and creativity of the pushers of this idea, but there are far bigger things to focus on in this district than changing the flow of traffic. You can put lipstick on a pig, but still Tedeschi and other businesses on Broadway need revival.”
Police Chief Brian Kyes is another long-time supporter of the two-way plan. Kyes sits on the Traffic Commission, and said he will support the plan.
“I concur wholeheartedly with the sentiments of City Manager Ambrosino on this important issue for the reasons that he cited,” said the Chief. “Both he and I have spoken at length on this issue and truly feel that this type of environmental design and resulting traffic configuration will not only enhance public safety, but also will be more aesthetically appealing and inviting to both the residents, visitors and business community.”
The Traffic Commission will take up the matter on Tuesday, July 24, at 6 p.m. in the Planning and Development Conference Room.
The City has moved to protect the resident parking around the new Silver Line Stations and busy 111 bus stops, anticipating a rush of commuters that will look to capitalize on easy parking in the day and a fast bus into Boston.
The Traffic Commission in late May approved the plan to enforce the existing resident parking program during the day hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Typically, in most parts of Chelsea, the resident parking program is enforced at night from midnight to 5 a.m.
Some exceptions are near the Commuter Rail and near the Chelsea Court.
The City Council approved the plan last week, on June 4.
The idea came from Councilor Roy Avellaneda, who first began talking about it at Council in December.
He said this week that he was glad to see proactive action.
“We don’t want to see commuters coming from Everett, Malden and Revere driving over to Chelsea and parking all day long so they can take the Silver Line into Boston and park for free,” he said. “I’m glad they also decided to take the extra step of protecting the busier 111 bus routes too. This is a win for Chelsea residents.”
After suggested by Avellaneda, Planner Alex Train worked up the proposal and sent it to the Traffic Commission.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they will begin enforcing the ordinance soon after they relay information to residents, as residents will need to have information in the areas affected. Most residents already have resident stickers, but they may need to be aware to get placards for their visitors during the day hours.
That’s a major change from what is currently in effect.
Ambrosino said they plan to have a public meeting on June 21 to explain the program and give out information to those effected. He said he wants to make sure people have a chance to digest the information as there were no public meetings beyond the Traffic Commission.
The meeting will take place at Chelsea City Hall in the City Council Chambers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.
The areas effected for the Silver Line include:
- Gerrish Avenue from Broadway to Highland;
- Library Street, from Broadway to Highland;
- Highland Street, from Marlborough to Box District Station;
- Marlborough Street, from Broadway to Willow.
Those areas affected by the 111 bus stop protections are:
- Washington Avenue, Bloomingdale to Heard St.;
- Washington Avenue, Spruce to Jefferson;
- Franklin Avenue – all;
- County Road, from Washington to Basset;
- Forsyth Street, from Washington to Franklin;
- Gardner Street, from Washington to Parker Street.
By Seth Daniel
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and consultants for the City took their message of a two-way Broadway in the business district to owners of the businesses on Thursday morning, Aug. 31, with Ambrosino saying he would stake his position on the issue.
Members of City government met with business owner from Broadway and the adjacent downtown streets Thursday morning at the Green Street Apartments community room. Kicking off the morning, Ambrosino expressed his great support for the change.
“It is incumbent on me to try to reduce the level of skepticism and outright opposition to this change,” he said emphatically. “That is what I’ll try to do in the coming months…I am 100 percent confident I can do that by doing two things – telling you about the advantages and listening to you…Whatever you think of two-way Broadway – one-way Broadway, that one-way speedway, cannot continue. It is unsafe. It is confusing to pedestrians and motorists and it is counterproductive to businesses and merchants on the corridor.”
Ambrosino stressed he believes that one change can transform the City’s downtown – particularly in terms of easing traffic patterns, eliminating unsafe double parking situations and making it easier for pedestrians to get to businesses.
Ralph DiNisco of the consulting firm Nelson Nygaard said that two-way Broadway is possible from a traffic management standpoint.
He compared it to other communities like Revere and Somerville where the lanes are just as wide and the traffic volumes are far greater.
Having studied the volumes in Chelsea and other communities, Broadway Chelsea handles only about 6,500 cars per day, where other Broadways along the Route 107 corridor handle double that.
“From a traffic operations perspective, two-way Broadway can work,” he said. “The numbers aren’t so high that it’s impossible. It can easily work with some changes. From a big picture, there’s no fatal flaw…If you look at other places, they have converted to two-way, and they are successful…Broadway now is a speedway. Nobody stops going down Broadway. They go faster than you want a car to go in a very busy downtown business corridor with people walking around.”
Police Chief Brian Kyes also spoke highly of the change, saying it would help dangerous situations for pedestrians and prevent double parking of delivery trucks – which allows criminals to shield themselves from police.
“There are a lot of young mothers pushing a carriage and when they come out with a carriage from behind a truck, it’s a very, very dangerous situation,” he said. “I’ve heard the idea for many, many years and we at the police department think it’s a very good idea.”
But business owners weren’t so convinced.
Some, like Roman Gold of Margolis Pharmacy, felt that it could increase traffic and become a cut-through for people trying to avoid Rt. 1 traffic.
“You could start to see a lot more traffic redirected by things like the Waze app from Route 1 to avoid traffic tie-ups further up the road,” he said.
Rick Gordon of Allen’s Cut-Rite said one of the biggest problems for merchants would be deliveries. Many merchants, he said, cannot afford to pay to have deliveries outside of busy times, and he said there isn’t adequate space for delivery trucks in the alley.
“Many people would have to pay $100 or $150 fees for scheduling deliveries,” he said. “I can’t really pass that fee on to my customers and it’s an undue burden on the small business. Many of us do UPS and FedEx only, but some get trailer trucks in periodically…What needs to be done is you need to start by re-striping the parking spots and doing the small things.”
Compare Supermarket owner Al Calvo said he thinks that the delivery problem – which was a great concern – could be solved.
“We’re emphatic with our vendors that there be no deliveries after noon,” he said. “I think there’s a way for us as business people to set the rules. Sometimes my deliveries show up after 2 p.m. and we don’t accept the load. We do have leverage.”
Some were also worried about whether or not the City could enforce the rules well enough, that there would be enough oversight.
Ambrosino said he guaranteed that, if approved, he would make it work.
“We have enough manpower and enough officers that want to work overtime if that’s what it takes,” he said. “I will put my reputation on the line. The City Council can fire me if it doesn’t work. I think it can be that transformative.”
The change cannot be unilaterally implemented. If it is recommended in the overall Re-Imagining Broadway study, it has to be submitted to the Traffic Commission. If approved there, it must go to the City Council for a final approval. At each step, there is plenty of room for public comment.
It often is said that technology is a two-edged sword. While it certainly is true that advances in technology bring many benefits, those benefits often find themselves subject to the law of unintended consequences.
The dramatic rise in cell phone use represents a clear example of how technology can have an adverse impact on our society.
According to a 2016 study published by Harvard Medical School researchers, an estimated 40,200 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2015, marking not only the highest number of traffic fatalities in nearly a decade, but also the sharpest rise — after years of decline — in more than five decades.
And the chief culprit implicated for the dramatic increase was cellphone use — more than a quarter of car accidents are caused by phone distraction, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
According to a recent article in the New York Times,there is overwhelming evidence that even hands-free phone use is just as cognitively distracting as holding the phone. In some cases, such as when issuing voice commands, it may be even more distracting.
The article in the Times continues, “According to a University of Utah study, using a phone, whether hand-held or not, impairs driver performance as much as, or more than, drinking. And many safety advocates hope that distracted driving soon carries the same behavior-altering stigma.
“At least 32 countries across the globe have laws targeting hand-held phone use while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Portugal, all phone use while driving, including hands-free, is illegal. The U.K. has recently doubled the fines drivers may face for using a mobile device behind the wheel, and British lawmakers recently proposed life sentences for drivers who kill when using their phones.
And there is this eye-opening conclusion, “Taking your eyes off the road at 55 mph for the five seconds it takes to send or read a text is similar to driving the length of a football field with your eyes shut.”
All of us talk and drive these days and many (if not most) of us text while driving (even though the latter is now against the law in Massachusetts, even if stopped at a red light).
So, as our parochial school nuns might say, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”
We urge all of our readers to understand the dangers inherent in cellphone use while operating a motor vehicle and we encourage our readers to curtail, and even eliminate, what truly can be described as risky behavior.
By Seth Daniel
After having voted down a two-hour parking proposal for Cary Square on the May 22 City Council meeting – yet not having enough votes to deny it according to the City Charter – the Council re-assembled on Tuesday night, May 30, to give it one more try.
And the result was the same, except this time the measure – championed by Pan Y Cafe owner Councillor Roy Avellaneda and some other business leaders in the Square – was defeated 7-2.
Those voting to keep the measure were Councillor Matt Frank and Dan Cortell. Councillor Avellaneda had recused himself from the proceedings due to his financial interest, and Councillor Recupero was absent again from the meeting.
Those voting to rescind the Traffic Commission’s two-hour parking plan – for eight total spots – in the Square were Councillors Damali Vidot, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez, Judith Garcia, Leo Robinson, Yamir Rodriguez and Paul Murphy.
The matter was believed to be done and finished on May 22 after a heated meeting that drew scores of residents commenced, and a vote of 5-2 ended the matter.
However, the next day it was discovered that a Traffic Commission decision had to be overturned by a majority vote of the Council, meaning at least six votes were required. Councillor Rodriguez immediately filed reconsideration of the matter, and since there was a time limit to addressing the matter within 30 days, Council President Robinson called the Special Emergency Meeting for this Tuesday.
The rules were explained and both Frank and Cortell questioned if it was appropriate. After explaining all of the logistics, with everyone satisfied, the final vote took place.
The meeting lasted about 10 minutes.
The Tuesday meeting was just a continuation of two previous, heated meetings about the issue – as well as some heated Traffic Commission meetings earlier in the year.
On May 22, scores of residents and business owners flooded the Council Chambers, some to oppose the restrictions on the eight new two-hour parking signs and some to support them. Avellaneda first brought the idea to the Traffic Commission earlier this year and called for an expansive meter program. He argued that commuters were taking all of the parking in the Square in order to use the 111 bus, which prevented his business and others from using the parking for customers.
The Commission compromised and instituted the eight, two-hour spots on a trial basis through August.
However, many businesses and many members of the Cary Square Club were outraged by the development and called on the Council to use a little-known oversight power to reject the Cary Square parking program.
The Commission’s report was approved two weeks ago, but the Cary Square matter was pulled from the report and held over until Monday night.
“There was not an issue there and never has been an issue,” said Karen Moschella of Off Broadway Dance. “No one is parking in Cary Square and taking the bus in. Maybe further up on Washington Avenue, ok, but not here.”
Zaida Ismatul-Oliva, of Spruce Street, said she and her mother opposed the change.
“I find it problematic that we’re now trying to change two-hour parking for one or two businesses in the area when its always been parking for residents,” she said.
Dan Morales, of the Blue Frog Sports Bar in Cary Square, said he likes the idea.
“I’m in favor of the parking restrictions because I think it will help businesses,” he said. “I have personally seen people park and take the bus and take up spots for five or six hours. That limits the amount of business you can do.”
Michael Albano of Willard Street said it was time to make a change to liven up that business district.
“It seems to me the Parking Commission got it right,” he said. “I would like to make Cary Square a place people want to go and make vibrant and a place that businesses can flourish.”
But most councillors did not agree.
Councillor Rodriguez said it simply wasn’t the right time given the fact that the Clark Avenue School was under construction and taking up a lot of spaces temporarily.
Councillor Tejada, whose district is nearby, was also in agreement, saying that some 15 or more spaces are taken up at the Clark Avenue project, forcing residents to push parking into the Square.
“I’m not in favor of this because it’s just not the right timing,” Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of projects going on right now and it’s pushing the parking issue to other places. We need to wait until that is finished and we should solve the parking issue another way. Two hour parking is not the solution.”
Councillor Cortell, however, agreed with the issue. Living on Admiral’s Hill, he said he rarely visits Cary Square because it is too complicated to get to and park.
“I think the Parking and Traffic Commission got it right,” he said. “They did compromise. It was on a trial basis until August…The Traffic Commission meetings were well attended…They chose a compromise. I’m in favor of the compromise.”
In the end, the Council prevailed in rescinding the two-hour parking, and there was no apparent appeal effort or alternative plan being proposed.
City Councillor Giovanni Recupero was all set to try to help several constituents in his district on Monday night by putting in an order that would put an end to them having to pay parking meters in front of their homes.
That was, until the City Charter got in his way.
Recupero told the Record that residents contacted him and said they couldn’t get any satisfaction from the Traffic Commission for a situation that has existed for years on Congress Street and a handful of other streets. That situation is that they live close to the Central Business District and have to pay parking meters to park in front of their homes.
Unlike some other streets, they apparently don’t qualify for a restricted pass.
Recupero wanted to change that, but had to withdraw his order because it violated a section of the 2004 City Charter. Now he said he wants to look into making some changes that would allow the Council to have more power in deciding such issues.
“I think maybe the Council should look to reverse that decision from 2004 so that we can have more power to help people when they ask us to help,” he said. “I am elected to help people and they call me for these kinds of things and I can’t do anything. That doesn’t make sense to me and I think I’d like to look into changing that.”
City Solicitor Cheryl Watson said the Charter doesn’t allow Recupero to order the Traffic Commission to do anything. She said that, as a resident, he can petition the Commission as anyone can. She said that it is possible for him to discuss the matter in subcommittee or to put in a request through the Council.
She said some streets do allow residents to have a placard that gives them amnesty from paying the meters 100 feet on either side of their home. The areas in question, though, may not qualify because of being too close to the business district.
Council President Matt Frank said there are ways to work around the Charter, and he might not be so keen on absorbing responsibilities of the Traffic Commission.
“The intent of the order I sympathize with because it makes sense,” he said. “It’s just a matter of protocol…I find that boards and commissions do listen to city councillors and have a respect for city councillors and our input when we give it. If the Traffic Commission hasn’t heard of the situation, obviously Councillor Recupero has and he gets the calls asking for help. I’ve had similar situations in my district. That said, I think it’s working the way it should. We’re not experts on traffic movements and I’m not sure I’d like to get into the minutiae of dealing with that. I’m pretty confident something could come of this if Councillor Recupero goes through other channels.”
But Recupero and some other councillors are tired of being restricted by a Charter that has its roots in receivership and severely limits the power of elected officials.
There was once a reason for that, naturally, in Chelsea’s recent history.
Newer councillors like Recupero feel that maybe it’s time to revisit some of those restrictions.
“I’m elected to help the people and time and time again I am told that I don’t have the authority under the Charter to help them,” he said. “I think maybe it’s time to look at those things. We’re the ones who are elected to do these kinds of things.”
Frank said that while he did not agree with absorbing Traffic Commission duties, he would like to absorb more power from boards like the License Commission.
“Actually, I would prefer to get a little more power back from the License Commission whereas their decisions have much more impact on the residents and the neighborhoods,” he said. “When a bar goes into a neighborhood, that can change things very quickly and we should have some say in that as elected officials.”