In response to concerns raised by Warren Street residents, the Needham Transportation Safety Committee (TSC) voted Wednesday night to table indefinitely a planned pilot project for traffic calming along their street.
The TSC had approved a plan to paint nonpermanent center and side lane markings on Warren Street between School and High Rock streets as a way to reduce speed. The project was prompted by a February petition from Warren Street resident Brian Antonio, who was seeking measures to slow traffic and increase pedestrian safety. After completing a traffic study in April and considering a number of options, as well as budget limitations, the town decided in July on the pilot line-striping project.
A number of Warren Street residents had a negative reaction to double yellow center stripes, saying they fear they will speed up traffic and lower property values. To understand their concerns the Department of Public Works held a special community meeting Monday evening that drew some 40 residents to the corner of Junction and Warren streets.
“I saw this as a pilot project, as a first step, and didn’t anticipate the outpouring of passion,” Highway Superintendent Rhain Hoyland told the gathering. “I was caught off guard and apologize for that. So that’s why we’re having this community meeting.”
The neighbors expressed a common interest in slowing traffic, along with a shared opposition to the double yellow lines. Many said their own reaction to such lines is to speed up. They asked about alternatives, such as stop signs, flashing speed limit signs, speed platforms and crosswalks. Resident Chris Casavant said greater police presence should be the No. 1 consideration.
The DPW representatives said many of those options were not available due to regulations or cost considerations. They said traffic engineering research shows the line markings they propose — at both the center and the edge of the street — have the effect of narrowing the visual field of drivers so they focus their attention on the lanes, and as a result slow down.
In addition to skepticism about their effectiveness, several residents said the presence of double yellow lines is off-putting to potential home buyers. They say the lines signify roads with higher speeds and heavy traffic and will lower the market value of adjacent homes. Officials said they have received mixed views from real estate agents on whether the stripes reduce home values.
The residents then set their sights on the Wednesday night TSC meeting, which many attended and where their feedback was acknowledged by TSC Chair Justin McCullen. He recognized that the committee’s effort at traffic control in this case was not aligned with the residents’ interests and made the proposal — which was unanimously approved — to table the project until the TSC can find a better solution for Warren Street.