Improve security on Main Street, but abandon other changes

I am very concerned about the proposed redevelopment of Main Street in Northampton. I am concerned about the loss of on-street parki...

I am very concerned about the proposed redevelopment of Main Street in Northampton. I am concerned about the loss of on-street parking and the lack of traffic if Main Street narrows again and loses traffic lanes.

I have lived in Northampton since the early 1960s and although I live less than a mile from the city center, I am not physically able to walk or cycle to Main Street. I also cannot walk from the parking lot. If there is no parking available on Main Street, I cannot patronize downtown businesses. Limiting the parking spaces available on Main Street and saying that people can just park in the garage and walk to where they need to go is discriminatory against people who are not physically able to walk that extra distance. .

A similar problem is now occurring in Chicopee where a bike path has been installed downtown, and 65 parking spaces have been lost. State Representative Joseph F. Wagner said his phone was “exploding with complaints” and that it was a “well-intentioned attempt to solve a problem that does not exist”. Of course, in Northampton, unlike Chicopee, we are fortunate to already have a cycle path parallel to Main Street.

Last August, the city attempted to narrow Main Street (temporarily) from two lanes in each direction to one. Many parking spaces have been lost because some corner parking lots have been paralleled. This experience happened at the height of COVID – when traffic was drastically reduced – and we still had major traffic jams downtown. It was also much more difficult to park.

In addition to fewer places to park, parallel parking in spaces that were officially at an angle forces the driver to open their door to oncoming traffic, which is very dangerous, especially for people with reduced mobility. .

Northampton is touting “safety” as a pretext for its plans to narrow Main Street again, reducing parking by at least 18% and slowing traffic. It’s like a patient with a broken arm and the city’s response is to amputate the arm! As an alternative to address safety concerns, Northampton could (1) place signage in crosswalks to make cars slow and give way to pedestrians; (2) install curbs (such as on Elm Street near Smith College) to shorten crosswalks; (3) converting crosswalks into raised speed bumps (like on Pleasant Street) that would slow down cars at crosswalks, and (4) painting traffic lanes on Main Street.

These measures could easily be implemented immediately, at a relatively low cost, if safety were really the main concern of the city. When it comes to safety, it’s obvious that first responders are already struggling to navigate Main Street. With fewer lanes of traffic for cars, the situation will become even worse.

We saw this problem last August when the city temporarily narrowed Main Street as cars struggled to find a place to stop on Main Street to allow first responders to escape. (We of course also have delivery trucks unloading in the middle of the main street which need to be taken care of).

Also, when we tried this experience in August 2020, there was no snow piled up in the middle of Main Street for weeks in the winter, creating additional challenges for traffic. For businesses and especially retail and restaurant communities, the loss of the proposed turning lane due to snowpack will ensure traffic will be slowed down during the holiday season and throughout the winter.

The city’s response is that the Department of Public Works will remove the snow on the same day or overnight after a major snowstorm, but historically this has never been the case. This can cause shoppers and restaurant goers to avoid the downtown area. Why take this risk which could lead to catastrophic failure that cannot be reversed easily, if at all.

Our real-world experience of local business, retail and restaurant business is largely ignored and does not match the theoretical rhetoric of the town planning consultants hired by the city.

Please contact the mayor’s office and your neighborhood representative to ask the Northampton Institute for the basic safety measures mentioned above and reject the drastic and permanent changes proposed by Northampton. Ultimately we all want positive change and opportunity for Northampton city center, but it should really reflect everyone’s needs.

Charlotte Winston lives in Northampton.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Improve security on Main Street, but abandon other changes
Improve security on Main Street, but abandon other changes
Newsrust - US Top News
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