The Revere Traffic Commission held a meeting last Thursday, February 16, in the City Council Chamber.
Chairperson Paul Argenzio, who is the Supt. of the Revere DPW, and fellow commissioners Police Chief David Callahan, City Planner Frank Stringi, City Engineer Nick Restroom, and Fire Chief Chris Bright were in attendance.
The principal business before the commission involved hearing the recommendations from HNTB, the traffic consultant firm hired by the city, regarding the problem of excessive traffic in the neighborhood of the streets that form the grid between Malden St. and Squire Rd.
Last summer, the Traffic Commission, after hearing a petition from residents of some of the streets in the grid, principally Sigourney and Derby Sts., agreed to change the traffic flow on those streets in order to alleviate the oppressive traffic volume.
However, the changes predictably pushed the traffic flow onto adjacent streets in the neighborhood. Two months later, the residents of those streets came before the commission to urge returning to the status quo. The commissioners voted to do so, but agreed to hire a traffic consultant to study the situation and make recommendations.
In January, HNTB presented its findings and returned last week to present its initial recommendations. Alex Steele from HNTB, who had appeared at the meeting in January, returned to make the firm’s recommendations to the commission, along with colleague Paul Nelson.
Steele initially addressed the issues raised by residents at January’s meeting — the impending arrival of a Popeye’s restaurant, speeding, stop sign violations, school traffic, lighting on the streets, and usage by buses and heavy trucks — and said that the firm had compiled some additional data since the last meeting.
She noted that there are a number of vehicles — about 15% — that travel at speeds greater than the speed limit. As for truck and bus traffic, she said the percentage is small, but they do make an impact because of noise.
Steele presented a chart that showed the daily traffic volume on certain streets: Augustus St. carries 1327 vehicles per weekday; Sigourney St. has 2564; Derby Rd. has 1037; and Charger St. has 2081. She noted that weekend traffic overall is less, but the numbers of cars are evenly spaced throughout the day.
Nelson then presented the commission with a number of improvements that would help the situation, including “traffic calming” measures such as signage, the reconfiguration of intersections to encourage safer driving behavior, speed humps, speed cushions, adding raised crosswalks, street width reduction, speed feedback signs, and mini-roundabouts.
“These would turn the area into a place that slows cars down,” Nelson said.
Nelson then got to the bottom line that had been awaited by the residents of the most heavily-traveled streets: “We do not recommend circulation from what is there currently, despite higher volume on Charger and Sigourney Sts., because they are not outside the range of what you would expect on a residential street,” Nelson said.
“A change in circulation would complicate navigation and the use of Google maps will find a way through for motorists,” he continued. “Plus, any changes would just shift the traffic to adjacent streets.
“If you make the streets slower, you will see a reduction in volume,” Nelson added, who said that those who use the area as a cut through will find an alternative route.
The HNTB team then presented photos of speed bump measures and raised intersections. In addition, they said that horizontal deflection, lateral lane shifts (with speed bumps where the road curves), and street width reduction via various methods could be implemented quickly.
Nelson concluded by telling the commission that at next month’s meeting, HNTB will present more specific plans for each street.
However, the failure to recommend changes to the traffic patterns for the streets was met with a combination of disappointment and disdain by residents from the area.
“We thought the main focus of this was traffic volume,” said Dan Forte of Sigourney St.
Steele replied that, “75% of traffic in the neighborhood is from the neighborhood. We’re never going to get into a situation where the traffic will be equalized. Traffic will only shift to other streets. First we should use traffic calming methods because for those who cut through, it will be less desirable for them.”
However, Forte questioned whether such measures will appreciably reduce speeding given that the streets in question already are narrow.
“How will speeding be reduced when there already is one-way traffic with parking on both sides?” he asked.
Kelly Resendes of Grover St. echoed Forte’s sentiments.
“This was supposed to be done for volume,” Resendes said. “I disagree that most cars are from the neighborhood, and the Popeye’s will increase the volume significantly.”
“Speed bumps do not really change anything,” added another speaker, Sigourney St. resident Adele Cataldo.
Argenzio however, pointed out that the volume issue only will be passed along to the adjacent streets.
“It is very difficult to make everybody happy,” Aregnzio said, while also noting that the state will need to approve any changes to traffic flow on these streets because they intersect with Squire Rd., a state highway.
“I don’t see the state changing those intersections,” Argenzio said.
Michele Kelley of Derby Rd. also spoke on the issue.
“I don’t even know where to begin because I’m so disappointed,” said Kelley. “We were very concerned about volume and now all I’m hearing about is signs and speed bumps.”
Kelley also questioned the numbers from HNTB in comparison to a previous study that had been conducted by a firm hired by the Revere Police Dept. prior to the initial changs made by the Traffic Commission last August. She also took issue with HNTB’s conclusions.
“This is not normal volume for a residential street,” said Kelley. “Why can’t Derby and Gore be made one-way like all of the other side streets off Squire Rd.? We were hoping for some big things and that was what we were led to believe. Signs and speed bumps fall far short.”
“Nothing is off the table,” Argenzio noted.
Steele said some of the initial recommendations could be put into place right away and that HNTB was waiting to see what the impact will be from Popeye’s.
However, Kelley responded to that as well.
“A city councillor had promised that traffic changes would be made prior to the opening of Popeye’s. We have a problem right now without Popeye’s and we know it’s going to exacerbate it and we don’t have to wait to see what happens,” Kelley said.
Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino then stepped to the podium, stating that he agreed with Kelley’s assessment and urged the commission to consider opening up the intersection at Patriot Parkway and Squire Rd. as a means of alleviating the traffic in the neighborhood. Serino also said that Lantern and Gore Rds. need relief.
“I hope we have an implementation of something in place before Popeye’s opens,” Serino added.
“It sounds like you don’t have a good-enough plan to reduce the traffic,” said Resendes, who retook the podium briefly.
Joanne Giannino of Sigourney St., addressing the HNTB team, suggested to them, “I would like to invite you to come to my house for a week and you’ll see what is going on in my neighborhood.”
Argenzio said he would ask HNTB to reconcile the numbers with the report done by the firm that had been hired by the police department last year.
“We’re going to continue this process. We’re not going to give up,” said Argenzio, concluding the discussion until the commission’s next meeting.
Prior to the HNTB presentation, the commission also took up three other matters at its meeting.
The commissioners heard a request for two, 15-minute designated parking spaces at 75 Shirley Ave. on Monday-Friday from 8AM-6PM.
Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky sent an email stating he is in favor of the move in order to accommodate a new juice bar that will have a lot of in-and-out customers.
There were no opponents and the matter was approved unanimously.
Next, the commission took up a request for a handicapped parking spot at 33 Dehon St. Ralph DeCicco, the chair of the Disabilities Commission, told the members that there is no driveway for this residence. He said all of the proper documentation has been submitted and there are no outstanding parking tickets. He asked the commission to approve the matter and the members unanimously voted to do so.
There also was a request for a handicapped parking spot at 37 Barrett St. DeCicco said that he has been unable to get in touch with the applicant. He said that the applicant’s vehicle does not appear to be registered in Revere, which would preclude the commission from taking action.
He also said that there is a fire hydrant in front of the property and a curb cut for a nearby driveway.
“There is not enough space for a parking spot, so we cannot legally designate this as a handicapped parking spot,” said DeCicco.
Strings requested that the matter be tabled until the next meeting to get specifics about the number of feet that are required to park from a hydrant and to obtain the measurements for this particular spot. The commissioners approved tabling the matter and will address it at its next meeting.