Two-way streets may ease traffic


February 27, 2014
By Thor Jourgensen/The Daily Item

Making streets like Oxford, Central Avenue and Liberty two-way could make downtown driving easier, but with a potential loss of on-street parking spaces, traffic consultants say.

“There’s always a balance with a downtown: Do you want to welcome traffic or discourage it — in some cases — to encourage pedestrian access,” Nicolette Hastings, traffic engineer for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., told city officials this week.

picture of commuter rail on tracks in downtown lynn
Angela Owens/Item Photo

The Watertown traffic consultant firm started studying downtown traffic last September and reached conclusions that would probably not surprise any Lynn driver: One-way streets and traffic-snarled intersections make it hard to get around the city’s center.

Hastings pointed out downtown streets lack signs informative to drivers unfamiliar with the city’s center. Downtown is also outfitted, Vanasse concluded, with “fair to poor” traffic signals.

Hastings suggested improving signs on Market Street and Central Avenue to provide drivers with more information on getting around downtown. Vanasse’s study also recommended reopening the city parking lot between Liberty and Andrew streets on the Andrew side.

“There are improvements that are short-term in nature and could be implemented immediately,” Hastings said.

Major changes in downtown traffic flow have been few over the decades, including one dating back to 1971, and Washington Street’s re-configuration 20 years ago.

But downtown drivers don’t need a study to tell them about traffic bottlenecks that form at Central Avenue, Washington and Oxford streets. Vanasse suggested adding a stop sign at Washington and at Central streets, where they intersect with Oxford, and eliminating some street parking to ease traffic flow.

“There’s an opportunity to clean up the situation,” Hastings said.

The Vanasse study also urged the city to clear up traffic snarls created by drivers crossing Central from Munroe Street onto Blake Street.

“This is also a situation that would benefit from two-way traffic on Oxford Street,” she said.

The study also looked at what would happen to downtown traffic if streets, including Central Avenue and Liberty Street, were made two-way streets. Converting both streets to traffic in either direction would improve cross-downtown traffic flow, but converting to two-way could reduce on-street parking, the consultant concluded.

That trade-off, pointed out City Council President Daniel Cahill, represents a concern to businesses that would require “long-term” talks between city officials and merchants before two-way changes are considered.

Making Liberty and Andrew streets two-way “supports redevelopment,” according to the Vanasse study, but it requires taking out 14 street parking spaces on Andrew, Hastings said.

“It’s a situation where city planners need to decide if access is more important than very proximate parking,” she said.

Making Oxford Street two-way improves north-south traffic flow through downtown, relieves congestion at Liberty Street and cuts down traffic in the potentially dangerous crossover between Blake and Munroe.

Cahill said Vanasse offered downtown improvement suggestions, including re-timing traffic signals, that represent low-cost traffic fixes.

Taso Nikolakopoulos, Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce executive board chairman, attended Vanasse’s Tuesday presentation with about two dozen other people and said business community members and councilors can work together to solve problems like traffic congestion.

“This council and administration understand now is the time to be implementing,” he said.


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