Selectmen To Attend Traffic Advisory Committee’s Thursday Meeting On Crosswalk Concerns

Photo: The scene of the accident at Lexington and Sycamore streets.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen will join the town’s Traffic Advisory Committee at its scheduled meeting Thursday, Sept. 13 at the Town Hall auditorium as the committee takes up pedestrian safety after the death of a resident killed walking in a crosswalk.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and run for approximately 90 minutes.

Sachi Thanawala, 39, was struck by a 2015 Ford Transit commercial van around 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 30 while walking at the raised intersection of Lexington and Sycamore streets. The mother of two died two days later.

The meeting will be the first, but not likely the final chance the public will have a chance to question town officials and make statements. Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said that it is quite likely that there will be future hearings on traffic issues involving pedestrian safety.

Since the accident, residents have contacted elected and town officials, police and have posted online their concerns that the intersection where the accident occurred  and Lexington Street are unsafe as vehicles are prone to race above the 25-mph speed limit. Residents near the accident site has expressed increasing that traffic calming street measures need to be employed to make area safe for walkers and school children who use the intersection to head to and from the Samuel Butler Elementary School which is a few blocks down Sycamore.

Citizens have also used social media to express their opinions.

“This intersection is an absolute nightmare, and has only gotten worse since the town added a raised speed table/bump,” commented Frank Maldarelli in the Belmontonian. “My recommendation would be to add a four-way stop sign. Perhaps this will prevent life from needlessly being lost in the future.”

“I have watched in horror as children ran, frightened and confused, across streets where cars would not slow down at all,” wrote Sara. “Belmont is used as a cut through–pick up trucks, vans, fast cars. Enough!!! Do something!! Let’s demand more of our town government.”

Thursday’s meeting will begin with statements by the selectmen, the Belmont Police and the advisory committee. Glenn Clancy, the director of the Office of Community Development and Town Engineer, will then present an overview of pedestrian and traffic projects. After the officials speak, residents will be given an opportunity to express their opinion.

Selectmen Approve Three Traffic/Parking Changes

Photo: The new traffic restrictions on Concord Avenue.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen approved three recommendations from the town’s Traffic Advisory Committee which will free up parking, allow greater space for a school bus drop off and hamper cars from using side streets as cut throughs.

Community Development Director Glenn Clancy presented the proposals to the board at last Monday’s, July 31 Selectmen meeting.

• A request by the Belmont Board of Library Trustees that the five to six parking spaces before the entrance to the library’s parking lot on Concord Avenue be restricted to four hours of free parking was approved. The trustees and library staff noticed that at times the spaces are taken up for several hours, whether by residents visiting the Underwood Pool or used by commuters who walk the short distance to the commuter rail station. With space in the library’s parking lot usually filled, it is critical that parking spaces turn over during the day to allow patrons to visit the library.

• Parking is now prohibited during specific hours on the odd side of Sharpe Street adjacent to the Burbank Elementary School. The changes, requested by Burbank Principal Tricia Clifford and the school’s PTA Safe Routes to School Committee, were to accommodate a new bus route that will ease traffic and increase safety on School Street. In the past, the bus would stop on the busy School Street, while now the bus will discharge/pick up students at this new Sharpe Street turn-in.

The changes include:

  • Restricting parking on the odd side of Sharpe, Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.;
  • Restrict parking on the odd side of the curve along 39 Sharpe, Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
  • Restrict parking on the even side of the curve adjacent to 42 Sharpe, Monday thru Friday from  8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; and
  • Change the current sign in the new bus turn-in to read: “School Bus Access Only, No Parking, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

• Residents on Ernest Road had seen an increasing number of drivers who found a “short cut” using their street to avoid the long line of vehicles during the morning rush on Clifton Street. Either through trial and error or using the traffic and navigation internet app Waze, drivers were taking Prospect Street to Ernest before turning onto Stella Road that leads into Pleasant Street.

To discourage the action of drivers, a stop sign was placed at the intersection of Stella and Ernest, and a sign is up at Prospect and Ernest restricting access to the street from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday thru Friday.

While discussing whether to approve the restriction, Clancy told the board that both signs are already up for several weeks.

‘Who’s in charge here?” Selectmen Chair Jim Williams in mocked horror.

Clancy said there had been a long history concerning the Selectmen and whether they need to know every sign Clancy and the Traffic Advisory Committee installs. In fact, the Ernest Road restrictions were only brought before the Selectmen because the Belmont Police said they would not enforce the new signs unless that the board approved their placement.

It was the majority opinion of the Selectmen that this iteration of the board would like to be informed of all signs and new regulations on town streets.