The long-awaited results of the traffic study for the neighborhood comprising the grid of streets bounded westerly by Malden St., easterly by Squire Rd., southerly by Broadway, and northerly by Washington Ave. were presented to the Traffic Commission at its meeting held last Thursday evening in the City Council Chambers.
Traffic Commission Chairman Paul Argenzio, who is the Supt. of the Revere DPW, and fellow commissioners Police Chief David Callahan, City Planner Frank Stringi, City Engineer Nick Rystrom, and Fire Chief Chris Bright were in attendance.
Alex Steele from the firm HNTB, which was hired by the Traffic Commission to conduct the study, explained the methodology used by HTNB and presented the facts to the board and to the area residents who were in attendance.
As expected, the largest traffic counts occurred during the morning and afternoon rush hour periods during the weekdays and from 2-3 p.m. on Saturdays. Sigourney and Charger Sts., which are the only streets in the grid with traffic signals that permit left turns onto Squire Rd., saw the largest volume of traffic with up to 200 vehicles during peak hours.
By contrast, some of the other streets in the grid saw traffic volumes as low as 20 vehicles per hour.
Steele fielded a number of questions from the audience and the commissioners regarding the collection of the data.
Argenzio said this was the first of three meetings to be held by the commission prior to making its final decision on signage for the neighborhood. Thursday’s initial meeting presented the study results to the members of the community; the next meeting in February will feature recommendations from HTNB; and at the third meeting in March, the commission will make its final decision.
Last August the commission approved changes to one-way signage on certain streets (including Sigourney), at the request of the residents of those streets, that significantly reduced the high volume of traffic on those streets, but which had the expected domino effect of increasing traffic significantly on the adjacent streets.
After the predictable outcry from the residents of the adjacent streets, the commission reversed course in the fall, returning the signage to the original status quo and commissioning a traffic study to determine what, if anything, can be done to redirect traffic from the high-volume streets in an equitable manner.
However, any efforts to change traffic patterns in the area could face some significant roadblocks (no pun intended). Steele reminded those in attendance that Squire Rd. is a state highway, which means that any changes to traffic signage with all intersecting roadways will be subject to state approval.
In addition, a Popeye’s Restaurant will be opening soon at the corner of Derby and Squire Rds. on the site of the former Honeydew Donuts and is expected to bring even more traffic to the area.
Finally, as one audience member stated, the huge increase in Revere’s population in recent years, thanks to the construction of many high-density housing buildings, has contributed significantly to the ever-increasing volume of traffic on streets throughout the city that were not designed to handle such large numbers of vehicles.
In addition, the popular Market Basket grocery store, located across Squire Rd. in the Northgate Mall, is a huge draw, bringing thousands of cars who use the neighborhood as a cut-through to get to and from the mall.
The present, round-the-clock gridlock on Broadway and other city streets hearkens back to the early 1950s when the Mystic River Bridge first opened before the Northeast Expressway was built. Broadway in Revere and Chelsea became inundated with traffic from North Shore commuters who were seeking to get onto the new bridge, creating a nightmare for local residents.
The construction of the Northeast Expressway, which connected the bridge to Route 1, eliminated the traffic congestion problem immediately. But unless the city has plans for a tunnel or an overhead viaduct that would connect Malden St. to Squire Rd., the commission may be facing a situation of trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole in any effort to try to make everyone happy.