LETTER: Councilor Concerned About Impact of Mt. Auburn St. Project on Coolidge Square

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WorldTech Engineering

A diagram showing some of the recommended changes to Coolidge Square, including changing the configuration of Bigelow Avenue at Mt. Auburn (adding a bump out and moving the bus stop) and making Kimball Road one way away from Mt. Auburn Street.

(The following is an open letter sent by Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis to the team designing the Mt. Auburn Street Renovation)

Dear Mt. Auburn St. Team, et al,

Many thanks for your response that has been 3.5 months in the making. I echo the sentiments of local residents, who at my suggestion, have written to the Team, only to receive a response focused solely on the scripted design plan. 

Please do not insult me in a condescending manner by stating: “we would encourage you to view this video about implementing Road Diets in New Jersey.” As a reference point, the intersections of Berdan Avenue at Valley Road and Ratzer Road at Shatler Drive in Wayne, New Jersey do not mimic the complexities of the Mt. Auburn Street Corridor in the East End. The areas in New Jersey, where the road diet was implemented, are devoid of a trackless trolley system, densely populated residential areas, compact local business districts, five funeral homes, numerous houses of worship where people congregate and cut-through commuter traffic.

I respectfully disagree with your assertion of not being in a position to respond to previous decision making, reflective of Town roadways, when referenced as a query of the baseline conditions, created to accommodate local development. The Team should be able to explain the traffic pattern changes in the Coolidge Square area, that have evolved since 1999. The traffic studies and engineering reports were all sanctioned by, and accepted by, current Town Staff and their predecessors. All the data should have been archived for posterity in the Town’s annals.

What provisions are in place when double parked funeral processions are queued in the single, westbound lane? How will the net gain of three parking spaces in Coolidge Square assist the local merchants and their patrons when the placement of the spaces is not in their proximity? Where will delivery and parcel pick-up be designated? To be determined, is not viable, with the existing space constraints. How often is the pedestal traffic signal on the southeast corner of Mt. Auburn Street at Arlington Street knocked-off the base by tractor trailer trucks not able to maneuver the turn? Will the same be true of the truck turning radius at the Bigelow Avenue placemaking area? The variables of reality, often trump the confines of conceptual theory.

Changes to Coolidge Square Get Recommendation of Council Subcommittee

The community placed its faith, trust and tax dollars in designs that favored developers. Should we now believe that the established, curb to curb width; minus one lane of vehicular traffic; plus a designated shared bus-bike lane will equal a safer and more accommodating multi-modal roadway? Fact sheets and videos are very careful in placing, discrete, disclaimer caveats that defer to: local decision making options; most likely scenarios; where appropriate; feasibility studies and the like, as a means of stating: not one size fits all.

The concept of a Road Diet is worthy of consideration in areas with greater expanses of roadway; not the span of the Mt. Auburn Street Corridor with its many nuances. Coolidge Square and its environs are a unique destination to be embraced and nurtured as the nucleus of the East End. To quote a local business owner: “leave Coolidge Square alone”.

My viewpoints, concerns and trepidation, centered around the Road Diet for the Mount Auburn Street Corridor, remain the same as my position statement, entered into the record on 07/10/18 and herein following in the email chain. Thank you.

Best,
Angie

Angeline B. Kounelis
District A, East End, Town Councilor
The City Known as the Town of Watertown
617-926-2352

4 thoughts on “LETTER: Councilor Concerned About Impact of Mt. Auburn St. Project on Coolidge Square

  1. Bravo Councilor, Coolidge Square is a historically significant area that needs appraisal and preservation. not cut chop and if it turns out bad there will be no way to change it. We need more access to parking, not less or exchanged for spaces at the other end. As it is it there are very few accessible spots to park for elderly or handicapped residents. Parking would be easily accommodated if perhaps with the power of eminent domain to utilize the current parking lot between between Arlington and Bigelow. A two or three story parking garage would open space for quite a number of spaces not even counting the currently reserved spaces.
    There are other creative “avenues” (no pun intended) to explore. Not just what the engineers, contractors etc put before the council.
    Just Saying
    Steve Ainsworth
    East Watertown

    • Steve, you are not the first to talk about a parking garage — either in Coolidge Square or Watertown Square. I think there are various hurdles standing in the way (for instance the Cambridge water supply runs through the lot behind CVS). The biggest, however, seems to be the funding.

      There is an item on the town’s 2019-23 Capital improvement plan (page 13) for a structured parking garage in Watertown Square for $5 million, but funding is TBD. That has been like that for many years. Nothing for Coolidge, however.

  2. The Mt Auburn St project is designed by road “engineers” who bury themselves in numbers and studies from “other” places. Like our town planners, they are unconcerned with preserving neighborhoods, small businesses or history. They do not talk to anyone who actually lives there; public meetings don’t work—they should be going door to door or spending real time in the space, not just taking traffic counts and trying to apply their one size fits all latest trend called the “road diet”. Don’t be fooled—their only concern is getting car traffic to flow through the area quickly, not if anyone might want to actually stop to live in a place. Thank you Angie for calling out this awful process! I wish more town councilors would take notice.

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