Newton’s Public Safety and Transportation Committee (PST) addressed Newton residents’ appeals to get rid of a no-parking zone along Farwell Street and the restriction of access to Centre Street to only bicycles at their meeting Wednesday night.
David Koses, transportation coordinator for the Public Works Department and chair of the Traffic Council, explained that the cause for the no-parking zone was a video showing a school bus unable to drive through Farwell Street due to parking on both sides.
The Traffic Council initially recommended starting the no-parking zone at a point on Farwell Street, and extending the zone around the corner to North Street, according to Koses.
“Traffic Council voted to restrict the parking on the west side and around the curve, and it was appealed,” Koses said. “It came to PST in September of 2023. After a long discussion at PST, this committee voted to remand the item back to the Traffic Council for further review.”
After collecting data on the accessibility for larger vehicles, such as school buses and firetrucks, to pass through the street, the Traffic Council again voted in October to restrict parking, explained Koses.
“So in our test run, you could see that the fire engine, even the thinnest one, could not get through in ideal conditions with small vehicles and no snow on the street,” Koses said. “So it’s pretty clear that it’s not safe to have parking on both sides.”
Koses explained the decision to restrict parking on the west side was due to the utility poles that could be used to post no-parking signs, as well as the fact that the sidewalk is on the east side of the street.
“I have support for the Traffic Council, who twice have had a unanimous decision on this,” Ward 8 Councilor-at-Large Rick Lipof said. “[The proposal] seems absolutely reasonable to me for overall public safety instead of the individual desires of the homeowners on this street.”
Due to these safety concerns, the committee unanimously voted to deny the appeal and uphold the decision of the Traffic Council to restrict parking down the west side of Farwell Street.
The next item open for discussion was an appeal on the denied request to restrict access to Centre Street to all vehicles except bicycles.
“We believe it is inappropriate and would be extremely impactful to circulation in the area,” Koses said. “So we voted back in November to deny this item.”
Jesse Corey, Newton resident and petitioner for the appeal, explained he requested to block off Centre Street because traffic congestion at this intersection affects his commute.
“It is not a good thing when queues for one specific traffic light controlled intersection prominently back up beyond the previous traffic light,” Corey said. “I have been informed many times that MassDOT [Massachusetts Department of Transportation] is continuing to make adjustments to signal timings and sequencing.
Corey believes that despite MassDOT’s possible fixes to traffic light sequencing, the problem of commuter buildup will not be adequately addressed.
“I think this would be very, very disruptive,” Ward 3 Councilor-at-Large Pamela Wright said. “We’re going to be putting so much more traffic on side streets, you know, residential streets versus main travel roads.”
Wright explained that fixing the timings on the traffic lights following new construction often takes time.
“We have been in communication with MassDOT ever since these signals went in,” Isaac Prizant, Newton’s transportation engineer, said. “They do unfortunately move a little bit slow. I don’t have any anticipated timeline right now that MassDOT has shared but, from the city side, we’re just going to continue to encourage them to move ahead with it.”
The PST unanimously voted to deny the appeal to restrict Centre Street to bicycles.