Irked Residents Voice East Street Bridge Concerns
Adding a new traffic light or more noticeable signage were among the solutions discussed Thursday to help alleviate constant accidents in the area.
Nearly two months after an MBTA bus crashed into the East Street Bridge, causing area residents to evacuate due to a natural gas leak, the long-standing issue of safety on the road was brought to the forefront by residents and the Westwood's Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee Thursday night.
Ten residents from the East Street area attended the meeting, all of whom voiced sincere concerns over the safety on East Street, and that of pedestrians in the area near the bridge that has historically been a common site for accidents.
"I almost lost my family to this stupid bridge," said Jay Knox, who lives in the vicinity. "There are signs everywhere, but that's the thing that's so frustrating. It'd be great if there were something more substantial."
Various concerns were raised, from the safety of pedestrians under the bridge to the speed of vehicles on East Street that come off the rotary over Rte. 128. Also discussed was the issue of vehicles bouncing off the sidewalk that exists under the bridge, as well as the safety of those pedestrians in the area of Morrison Park.
"The field is an attraction to children, so we're attracting children to an area that is highly pedestrian unsafe," said local resident Stan Sylvester. "It's a miracle to me that someone hasn't gotten killed while walking under there."
Among the potential solutions discussed were:
- Speed traps to help slow down traffic.
- Lights on poles to alert vehicles that they are speeding prior to the bridge.
- Lights on poles to alert vehicles that they will not fit under the bridge.
- Removal of existing sidewalks under the bridge so vehicles will not bounce off of them.
- Overhead signs and chains that would alert larger vehicles prior to entering the overpass.
- Eliminate the "Right on Red" sign on the corner of Washington and East Streets.
- Traffic calming measures in the area of Smith Drive and East Street.
- New traffic light at the corner of Carroll Avenue and East Street.
In the past, the notion of raising the bridge has been discussed.
"Raising the bridge is never going to happen," said Westwood resident Robert McGee Thursday night. "It's humanly impossible to raise that bridge and have a train go over it."
McGee sustained serious injuries in an accident under the bridge nearly eight years ago when a small truck he was driving collided with another vehicle under the bridge. The driver of the other vehicle, a 79-year-old man, was estimated to be driving close to 65 or 70 miles an hour, he said.
"I will not go under that bridge when someone is coming down from Rte. 128," he said. "It's a free-for-all."
Members across the Committee were more than willing to discuss the issue at length and see how to address the matter.
"We are very strong towards making a move, because there are many structural concerns with how many times the bridge has been hit," said Committee member Karla Kiosi. "We know the concern and would like to have a stronger voice."
Committee Chair John Craine suggested that someone from the neighborhood join the committee to help the members stay up-to-date with any concerns, while fellow member Wendy Muellers suggested the residents of the area persist their concerns to the Westwood Board of Selectmen. By doing that, Muellers said, residents could potentially bring forth efforts for a traffic calming study in the same manner as those residents of Dover and Conant Roads during the last year.
Other residents from the area who enjoy walking up through Islington Center even avoid the bridge altogether, such as Lynn Kaminski, who said she, as an alternative, walks down Carroll Avenue and across the train tracks of Islington Station to get to such venues as CVS.
"I want to be a pedestrian, but it's a very difficult thing to do in our neighborhood safely," Kaminski said.
Much of the neighborhood, Morrison Park and Roche Bros. was evacuated in May after an off-duty MBTA bus fueld with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) collided with the roof of the bridge, causing the vehicle to spill a large amount of the natural gas. But the issue of a large vehicle colliding with the roof is nothing new.
"That bus awakened everybody, I hope," McGee said. "That could have been fireworks [. . . ] Something bad is going to happen under that bridge. Really bad. And you're going to remember I told you."
Editor's Note: For clarification purposes, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee is in fact a subcommittee of the Westwood Planning Board. Thursday's meeting was not held as a public hearing, but as a regularly-scheduled monthly meeting of the committee. The agenda item of the East Street bridge was an issue that attracted several concerned residents.
The committee has met frequently for the last three years to discuss various pedestrian and bicycle-related issues and recommend possible solutions for consideration by the Westwood Planning Board and Westwood Board of Selectmen.
The committee is also scheduled to report to the Planning Board on July 10, and the East Street bridge issue is to be reviewed at length by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) as it continues its work on the production of a Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan for Westwood, which is to be funded by a Sustainable Communities grant.