Downtown flow eyed for change


February 21, 2014
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

 It shouldn’t surprise anyone who has driven through downtown Lynn to learn that the traffic pattern has not changed in 43 years, but a new study might change that.

“It was designed in 1971 and it was called Scheme J,” said Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell. “And to someone like me, who has lived here all his life, it makes no sense whatsoever.”

Downtown Lynn is rife with one-way streets, narrow roads and parking problems which are beginning to clash with the burgeoning arts, cultural, business and residential scene. Cowdell said EDIC, along with Community Development hired traffic engineers Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., or VHB, of Watertown, to conduct a study of downtown traffic to see what changes are needed to make life flow smoothly in the close-quartered part of town.

VHB will present its study to the City Council and other city officials.

“It’s not a public hearing, but I encourage the public to attend,” Cowdell said.

The company was charged with looking at the area’s one-way streets, on- and off-street parking and traffic flow in general to see what works and what doesn’t, Cowdell explained.

“It’s interesting to look at the downtown in 1971 compared to now,” he said. “In 1971 there were four active movie theaters, in 2014 there are 250 residents that weren’t there in 1971.

The study covers a geographic area that essentially stretches from City Hall to Central Square and Market Street to Chestnut Street.

“I’m excited to hear about it,” said City Council President Daniel Cahill.

Cahill commutes through the downtown everyday on his way to work, traveling one of three ways depending on traffic.

“There never seems to be a great time to drive through,” he said. “And it can be confusing for folks not from here.”

Munroe, Oxford, Andrew and Liberty streets are all one way, but every other street runs in the opposite direction. Washington and Central streets both cut through downtown and are one way in opposite directions. Market and Union streets, which are on the fringes, are both two way, but Essex Street is only two way until it intersects with Liberty and High streets. Then it becomes one way.

“It’s almost impossible to give anyone who’s not from here directions,” Cowdell said.

Cahill agreed that it’s not unusual and often frustrating to have to go a half a mile out of your way to get one block over.

“We always have to find innovative ways to improve the business climate,” Cahill said. “We had the opportunity to get professional feedback to see what we’re doing correctly and what we need to improve.”

Any changes made to the traffic pattern will have to ultimately be approved by the Traffic Commission, Cowdell said.

“And nothing will happen without the public’s input, the City Council would hold public hearings,” he added quickly. “This will be difficult because they will definitely recommend changes and people will be resistant to change.”


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