Select Board Place More Streets Off Limits To Student HS Parking, Adding Spots Along Concord, Pool

Photo: The Underwood Pool parking lot will be available for student parking this week.

Based on recommendations from the Middle and High School Traffic Working Group, the Belmont Select Board added three new streets to an expanding number of side streets in which High School students are banned from parking on school days while expending the time the existing “temporary” restricts will be in place by three weeks.

The new streets were added to the inventory of roadways at the board’s Jan. 24 meeting after residents complained their streets were impacted by students migrating from side streets placed under parking restrictions approved by the Select Board on Dec. 20.

“This announcement has generated quite a response,” said Roy Epstein, the Select Board’s vice chair who ran the meeting as Chair Adam Dash recused himself as he lives on one of the streets [Goden Street] under the regulations.

Epstein noted the Task Force recommendations are prompted by resident complaints of student drivers parking along side streets since the opening of the high school wing of the Belmont Middle and High School that is under construction.

“It has created a situation that we had to address. It made the streets dangerous for pedestrians and impassable for vehicles on numerous occasions and we felt we had to act,” said Epstein. The first set of restrictions – no parking from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. beginning on January 3 – were focused on Oak and Orchard streets off the southside of Concord Avenue.

The result of the initial action was students migrated over to nearby Stone and Louise roads. The reaction by those residents were as expected: move the kids.

The new streets with restricted parking bans include:

  • Stone Road,
  • Louise Road from Concord Avenue to the intersection with Emerson Street, and
  • Emerson Street from Concord Avenue to the intersection with Louise Road.

The ban takes effect Jan. 31.

The Board also extended the end date of the trial from Jan. 28 to Feb. 18 to allow the board to consider further recommendations from the Traffic Working Group to be presented on Valentines Day.

But Epstein wanted to make it clear: the committee’s aim is to disperse student parking and not to make it impossible for students to park. In recognition that parking options are being taken off the board on the three streets, the task force made three endorsements to make up for those lost spaces.

The first is to remove the reserved parking spaces on the north (or school) side of Concord Avenue from Underwood Street to the light pole across from Becket Road as “virtually no students have parked there since September,” said Epstein. The school administration provided 100 permits at the beginning of the school year to seniors with corresponding spaces. Yet only 50 to 55 of the spaces are filled on a daily basis, said Lawrence Link, one of the resident members of the working group.

While the committee did not speculate why the spaces were unused, there is some indication that many of the first time drivers find it unnerving to parallel park on a busy roadway such as Concord Avenue during the morning rush hour and feel safer sliding into a space on a quiet side street.

This action will allow more parking along Concord Avenue for students who did not receive permits and the public.

The second and third recommendations are to allow all-day parking in the Underwood Pool lot and on the Concord Avenue pool drop-off area stretching from Myrtle Street to the library exit, freeing up an additional 15 spaces.

While there has been some parents questioning the steps taken by the task force as targeting students, Link believes more parents will “now feel more comfortable because they know spots are available.”

Epstein said the committee’s expectation is to fill in the unused space on Concord Avenue and use new spots near the pool “to accommodate all of the students currently parking on the side streets.” If it becomes evident that more spaces are needed, there is a possibility the task force will recommend a limited number of student drivers via permits to park on side streets, said Epstein.

The adjustments will allow the Task Force ample time to conduct a complete evaluation before presenting final recommendations to the Select Board on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

Temp HS Student Parking, Drop Off/Pick Up Locations Along Concord Get A Thumbs Up

Photo: The new stripping along Concord Avenue at Goden Street (Credit: Belmont Police Twitter account)

Concord Avenue will be just a tad busier starting Sept. 8 as the Belmont Select Board unanimously approved 100 temporary student parking spaces along the westbound (from Cambridge to Belmont Center) lane of Concord Avenue as the high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School opens its doors for the first time.

In addition, the board approved drop off areas for students to exit cars bringing them to the school, according to Glenn Clancy, Director of Community Develop who made the presentation at the board’s Monday, Aug. 31 meeting.

“The beautiful thing about this plan is nothing’s new,” said Clancy, noting that construction workers have been using the same spots for the past two years that students are coming to, so drivers are familiar with vehicles along the roadway.

Approved by the Transportation Advisory Committee on July 15 with guidance from the Planning Board, the parking spaces are located at three locations:

• Across from the Belmont Public Library between the two curb cuts of the familiar turn-in parking area.

• Running across from Cottage and Goden streets, and

• Along Clay Pit Pond from the school’s entrance to Underwood Street.

The spaces will be issued by a lottery system, said John Phelan, Belmont Superintendent.

The spaces will be available to students until the completion of the Middle School portion in August 2023 when on-site parking becomes accessible.

While the TAC has delayed making a recommendation for the location of drop off and pick up spots due to the view that having a travel lane, bike path and parking along the street was “too concentrated” creating safety issues especially for bikers, said David Coleman, a TAC member, Phelan told the board there was an immediate need to have those spaces identified as the school year was less than two weeks away.

The placement of the drop off/pick up spots would be:

Heading eastbound (to Cambridge): Between Oak and Orchard streets to allow students to use the newly-lined crosswalk which will be staffed by a crossing guard.

Westbound: Across from Orchard Street that allows students to get out of the right side of the vehicle onto the sidewalk.

Phelan said the school district did not want to use a new loop in front of the school’s entrance as it will be reserved for buses. “We always wanted to separate cars, buses, walkers and bikers,” he said while construction continues for the next two years. “All the cars pulling into the driveway would create a walking conflict for those … coming from Harris Field … to get on the campus.”

Phelan said an additional drop-off site could be at the turn-off area across from the library.

Once the middle school is open, “we’ll have plenty of room for a pickoff/drop off on the site,” he said.

“That does not mean that this is a perfect scenario. We all know we are in a two-year temporary phase where traffic will be extremely congested in this area,” said Phelan.

For the Select Board’s Mark Paolillo, the current plan has his “heart in my mouth” concerning the likelihood that parents will simply stop along the entire stretch of Concord as an impromptu drop-off spot when traffic is congested.

“We need to have police presence… to supervise this,” said Paolillo. Phelan said Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac will be present for the first two weeks of school to “observe everything that’s happening.”

While saying there isn’t any way to know the demand for two drop-off locations, “I think we all just have to realize that with experience in the opening days of school we might have to make some adjustments,” said Select Board member Roy Epstein. “But I think this is the logical starting point.”