Lowell City Council Meeting: November 21, 2017

Mayor Kennedy introduces city councilor-elect Karen Cirillo who has been attending most council meetings this year.

Motion responses (see Mimi Parseghian city council meeting preview post): No discussion on Rte 38/Kittredge Park update.

Regarding chemical road treatments in the winter, trucks have sophisticated devices that control the mixture of materials to be laid on the roads.

Response on snow plow contracts referred to neighborhood subcommittee.

Regarding using one way traffic on various river bridges during peak traffic times, the city met with Mass DOT which felt the negative consequences of doing that would outweigh any benefit from doing it. The city did adjust the light cycles on O’Donnell bridge to attempt to reduce backups on Pawtucket Street.

There is some discussion about the one-year delay in the bridge repairs on the VFW Highway due to the discovery of contaminated soil. There will be an additional delay for at least another year. Councilors are critical of Mass DOT not doing adequate environmental testing prior to starting the project. There is no money in the state budget to remediate this. Councils direct the city manager to discuss this with city’s statehouse delegation to try to expedite funding of this.

Regarding the Rourke Bridge, the report says that it such a major project that it will require substantial funding from the state and federal government. Councilor Belanger is frustrated that elected officials from neighboring communities are not assisting the city in lobbying for money for a replacement bridge since many of the residents of these other communities use this bridge too. Manager Murphy says that the city has requested the necessary funds so it’s a matter of lobbying for it. Councilor Leary points out that even if the Rourke Bridge is improved to carry more traffic, the backups would just get pushed further out to Drum Hill which would become a bottle neck if more traffic came over the bridge. One thing that makes this time-sensitive is that in 2013 there was a feasibility study done. That has to be followed by an environmental study. If there is too much time between the first study and the second study, the first study will have to be redone (and repaid for) because it will have become outdated. This creates a greater sense of urgency to avoid paying for the same study twice. Councilor Elliott suggests the city might hold up the new Market Basket in Pawtucketville until funding for the new bridge is forthcoming from the state as a way of getting the state’s attention.

Vote to authorize Minimum Residential Factor. Referred to Public Hearing on Dec 5, 2017.

Vote to cancel city council meetings on Nov 28, Dec 19, and Dec 26, 2017.

Motion by Councilor Mercier: Req. City Mgr. investigate whether UMass-Lowell would consider putting a university police officer at the Howe Bridge on the Pawtucket Street side to control traffic from 4:30 PM until 6:30 PM while school is in session. Councilor Mercier invites Matt LeLacheur up to speak. He says while campaigning for the city council, he heard from people about the good and the bad of UMass Lowell. He says the traffic there presents a safety issue for students crossing the street while also frustrating drivers. He says the UMass Lowell police station is in University Crossing which is right next to the bridge, so it is an opportunity for the University to strengthen its partnership with the city.

December 5 from 4 to 6 pm will be the Holiday Open House at City Hall. The public is invited.

Meeting adjourns at 7:42 pm

2 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: November 21, 2017

  1. Brian says:

    “Councilor Leary points out that even if the Rourke Bridge is improved to carry more traffic, the backups would just get pushed further out to Drum Hill which would become a bottle neck if more traffic came over the bridge.”

    This is spot-on. The people of The Highlands should be 110% against a bigger Rourke bridge. For that matter, Pawtucketville residents should try and stop a bigger bridge from happening too.

    A bigger bridge will not solve area traffic issues. Congestion will only worsen in the neighborhoods. Sprawl will proliferate in Pawtucketville, Dracut, and Tyngsboro.

    This is from the Sun: “It has been pretty much proven by the police chief, the fire chief, Trinity EMS, that this bridge presents a public-safety threat,” Councilor Corey Belanger said. “Emergency vehicles cannot get through.”

    Pretty much? I haven’t heard this. It’s why we have fire houses on both sides of the river and why police have patrol areas. Patients in the back of ambulances are stabilized.

    Why doesn’t Market Basket just rehab the Wood St location?

    If the bridge is structurally deficient(it’s not) by all means build a new one. But not one with more lanes.

  2. Gail says:

    I agree that we need to be able to get emergency vehicles from one side of the river to the other [There is only one fire station on the north side of the river, with fire engines, and we have the main campus for the hospital]. At the same time, improving traffic flow too much, will encourage commuters who currently use routes 3 & 93 to cut through Lowell to get on to the Connector, creating more traffic for Pawtucketville and the Highlands. I don’t know if it would be worse, but other than maybe the first week that it is reopened, traffic won’t be any better. Shy of placing toll booths at the NH border on Mammoth Rd, Bridge St., Nashua Rd. and many others, nothing is going to alleviate traffic [and that isn’t going to happen]. Maybe they could build a bridge with three lanes, where the center lane is reserved for emergency vehicles only. I am saddened to hear that they are not considering turning some of the bridges into one-way. I remember when the Textile Bridge was closed and the Oullette was one-way south in the morning, and north in the evening, and adjustments were made to the O’Donnel bridge traffic flow. On the days that I drove, I got to and from work faster than when the Textile Bridge was open. Additionally, the in-bound Pawtucketville bus went over Bridge St. in the morning, so I was able to get off really close to work. Tuesday, it took me an hour to get home [in Pawtucketville]. After I got out of the John Street garage, which took at least 20 minutes. They may have changed the light cycles on Pawtucket Street and School Street, but in the evening that intersection has so much grid lock. Cars that are turning left on to School St. do not allow westbound cars going straight to go through the intersection. Then there are cars that turn right to go over the bridge from the left lane. . . . I would say that that intersection, more so than the one at Howe Bridge needs a traffic officer. I suspect that once the Broadway bridge is reopened that Pawtucket St. intersection will lighten. If a traffic officer is at the Howe Bridge I hope he or she is able to move students along quickly, and doesn’t stop traffic, until they are at the intersection. Some school crossing guards stop traffic when a pedestrian is in sight, and you sit there for a couple of minutes and sometimes they take a side street before getting to the intersection where the crossing guard has traffic stopped. If the LRTA was as reliable as it was when it staged downtown, I would use it on a regular basis, again. Improving public transportation would be another way to alleviate bridge traffic. As far as MB building in Pawtucketville goes, we do not have a grocery store. There is a Hannafords in Dracut & Pelham; and a Market Basket on Bridge St., and in Hudson.