James Street Bridge Hearing 1 Deadblog

The highlights:

1) No decision made at this time.

2) Bill Eddy did a pretty good job (!)

3) Jo Hart has a small office downtown now.

***

Rushton’s here, Konnie is the chair, as Joff is not here.  Bill Eddy is here as well.

One option – one lane southbound – 16 months

Option two – completely shut it down – 5 months

Moylan asked if they could shorten it to 4 months; alternating traffic on the bridge.

MassHighway said that certain agreements between them & CSX – could reduce from 5 months to 4 months by working extra hours.  They had done an analysis on the traffic impacts associated with one lane alternating traffic and asked for a decision to guide them going forward.

Fred Moseley is here with the Transportation Consulting Firm for MassHighway.  He will go over timelines and importance of the project.  He will also talk about the traffic impacts of each alternative.

This is a MassHighway project, not a City of Worcester project.

Moseley – James Street over CSX railroad.  Part of Accelerated Bridge Program.  To replace over 600 bridges over 8-year period.  The state is using a new process for this.  Design-Build – Mass DOT.  ET&L/White Joint Venture.  Moseley works for Fay, Spofford & Thorndike.

Carries about 15,200 vehicles//day.  4% or 600 vehicles are trucks.

Level of service – LOS “C” 21 second delay in AM, 35 second in PM

ADT on Heard Street – 13,000 vehicles a day.  Currently has a 5T weigh restriction.

James Street now has 10T weight restriction.

(He discusses LOS – Level of Service – LOS – for delays.)

Traffic Management Options.  From a structural standpoint, they can keep one lane open on the bridge.

1)      Keep one lane open on the bridge (alternating traffic or one-way southbound)

2)      Full Closure (June-Sept 2011)

One Lane Open

Alternating Traffic

LOS “F” with 2 minutes delay AM & PM

Long queues (400-800 feet)

No formal detour

Some traffic will seek alternate routes

One Lane Remains Open Southbound Only

..

Full Bridge Closrue

LOS “B” 16 seconds delay in AM

LOS “A” 8 seconds delay in PM

Requires detour of both Northbound & Southbound traffic – 15,200 vpd

Primary Truck Detour
up North Oxford to Fremont/Webster Street

Bridge is structurally deficient and has to be replaced now.

Option 1: Alternating One Lane – 16 months

Option 2: One Lane Southbound – 16 months

Option 3 : Close Bridge – 4 months

Rushton – How far up Stafford Street are you going to be able to travel?  The signage would say that the local businesses are open.

Answer: The construction will be limited on the railroad side, so the businesses on either side would not have any construction on their property.

Trucks are already being directed away from the bridge.

Lukes: how many businesses would be impacted?

Answer: have not done an inventory, but would be the ones adjacent to the bridge.

Lukes: why do we require CSX’s participation?

Answer: because we need them to supply the flaggers (currently two per the contract).  He would have to check with the contractor.  The two would have to be committed to the bridge when we need it.  They will be raising the structure to compensate for double-stacking cars.  CSX’s only commitment is to supply flaggers.

Lukes: Could CSX be an obstacle?

Answer: CSX just needs to provide the flaggers for this – with a little extra commitment from them, we could get the time period down from 5 to 4 months.

Lukes: What if the city provided flaggers?

Answer: This is a special type of flagger.

Moylan: He said that because no decision has been made, has not engaged in deep discussions with CSX.  He strongly believes that they could get CSX’s cooperation on this.

Lukes: What impacts to Clover Street?

Answer: Clover Street gets a fair amount of cutover traffic (2,000 cars a day, primarily northbound).  Southbound, he does not anticipate much traffic and would sign it such.

Audience feedback.

Randy Ormal, 135 Grandview Avenue.  He is in favor of four-month closure, but anticipates traffic and Heard and Stafford.  Thinks an officer might need to be there.  Significant impact of people cutting over Heard Street.  One of the other problems with Heard Street, school.  Since it’s in the summer, might not be bad.  But when children are there, there would be delays.  He also says that Clover and Heard is a dangerous intersection because people on Clover have a tough time making the right onto Heard.  He recommends a 4-way stop there (Nicole thinks this is kind of ridiculous).  He advocates the 4-month closure.

Lukes asks Joe Borbone about the traffic there in the summer.  Moylan responds: “We haven’t measured it, but intuitively” it would be, because of the school traffic.  There were no formal measurements taken during non-school months.

Ormal: traffic configuration on the bridge might need to be looked at.  Jersey barriers have been hit repeatedly.  Yellow line for the right hand turn from Cherry Valley to James Street.

Eddy Stein, from Flooring America.  Questions: (1) bridge just up the road that has been closed a long time.  (Left hand side on Stafford Street).  Is this feasible?

(responses from the floor: “It’s not there!”)

Borbone: there used to be a bridge on Graham Street, that bridge has been removed 15 years ago and abutments are no longer there.  If abutments were there, might have been able to put a bailey (?) bridge there.

Stein: (2) What about traffic cutting through Hadwen Park?

(Can you feel me cringe?)

Lukes: “That’s not likely to happen, let me tell you that.” [because Parks would need to be involved]

Moylan: There would be a number of issues – they could explore that alternative, but those are not public streets, and they can’t direct traffic onto private streets.

Rushton asks Stein what he prefers.

Stein prefers closure for 4 months.

Jo Hart, everyone’s favorite, is up next.  How high and how long would it have needed to take for CSX height changes, if there were no structural problems with the bridge?

Paul Harrington, structures project manager, responds:  Vertical clearance is 18 feet, 16-18 inches.  The original plan was to do it in 2 stages, maintaining 2 lanes, but because of the recent inspection, we lost the ability to push traffic tight to the curbline.  It would have been 12 months (versus the 16 months) by building it in stages.

Jo Hart – she sees Worcester as being impacted.  Could the bridge be rounded to the left and right and accommodated for more traffic?

Harrington: Right-of-way concerns on either side of the bridge.  In order to secure the right-of-way, it would be a long process.  Would not solve the immediate conditions.  “No right-of-way available” at the intersection of James and Stafford.

Tim Bombard, Squeaky Clean Car Wash.  Surprised there aren’t more business people here.  Anything less than two-way traffic detrimental to our business.  A closure would come close to closing us for four months.  That said, it’s clear the project will go through in some fashion.  “Everything comes down to dollars and cents – if you close for four months, it would seem like it would be more cost-effective.  Is there any way we could look at satisfying everyone and putting in abutments at Bailey Bridge?”  The alternating route isn’t beneficial either.  He feels “a lot of [the other businesses] are going to suffer as well.”  Piggybacking bridge with one lane of a bailey bridge?

Fred: we can look into structural issues.  This bridge does not lend itself to having that kind of lane.  Would like to move ahead with the project in one way, shape, or form.

Bombard – alternating traffic route: are you talking about paid detail officers, or with traffic light?

Moylan: traffic signal, similar to what’s at North Lake Avenue.  This is also a project under MassHighway, and they have not explored a police officer.  The cost would have to be borne by MassHighway.

Bombard – “The end result of this bridge is to double-up” cars for CSX.  “We’re going to suffer for that benefit that CSX is going to get.”

Lukes: did that bridge need to be repaired regardless?

Moylan: Structurally deficient.  Driver of accelerated bridge program is the condition of the bridge, and not that it’s on CSX line.

Harrington: he will get the information about how long it’s been.

Bombard’s preference would be the alternating with a police detail to facilitate the traffic.  (Or for CSX to pay for the loss of business)

Brenda Gascard of Stafford Discount Liquors, agrees with Bombard.  “We get a lot of customers from Auburn.  If it’s completely closed,” will lose customers and once gone, they might not come back.  “Essentially, we’re losing money.”  Would prefer alternating two-lane traffic.  “If I was a resident, I’d go for the four-month period.  But being a business and having to lose all this money, it’s tough.”

James Padeni, opened up a car repair shop at Clover and South Ludlow, is for the 4-month shutdown mostly because he thinks 16 months is going to be a traffic issue.  He thinks a lot of people will get into a pattern of diverting around that area for almost two years.  “Maybe we could get as business owners – get a pact together – that we support each other’s businesses as much as we can…to try to keep ourselves for those four months.”

Padeni, con’t – regarding lanes – proposes southbound traffic open for morning commute, and then in the afternoon switch to northbound traffic.

Two questions: 1) is there going to be the possibility for any foot traffic?

Moseley: both alternative schemes provide for a temporary walkway.

2) Side street from Heard Street to James Street – Genesse Street – doesn’t know how much this exists, but could the end be paved and help traffic get from Heard to James?

Moseley – improvements to another road would delay the project.

Moylan: Genessee has been closed on that end for some time.  We ultimately came to the conclusion that the detour length is not excessive – less than a mile.  Most people would prefer to ride on streets they were familiar with.  One more thing to factor in: Mass Highway project, and it’s to get the work underway by April or May.  As we looked at it, there didn’t appear to be any time to consider such an alternative in detail.  Even if there were a benefit, it wouldn’t meet Mass Highway’s schedule.

Lukes: if you’re interested in organizing the businesses in the area…she points to Phil Niddrie and says that he can be of help.

Jake Russell is from the Cape.  Thinks four month project makes the most sense.  It’s going to create a routine for people to go about their daily lives.  Doesn’t think it’s going to hurt business in the long run.

Diane Bombard from car wash – could we do opposite directions at different times of the day?

Moseley: would be a design challenge and a safety concern.  Doesn’t think that their business could survive four month closure.  “I don’t know how many project Mass Highway has completed on time. … I don’t want you to say four months and it stretches into seven months. … We depend on traffic.”

John Grimley, lives on Grandview Ave: four months is probably going to turn into 6 months, but 16 months is going to turn into two years.

Show of hands – how many agreeable to four month delay (vast majority); how many for 16 (a few).

Diana Grimley, also on Grandview Ave: what about making Clover on e way.

Moseley: turn would be tight.

Grimley would personally go around to get to the car wash, because that’s where she goes.

Lukes recognizes Eddy.  “This is a tough one for a district councilor.”  Had a long talk with Binienda about this.  They both agreed that this is a problem of perspectives between businesses and residents.  For residents, four months, no brainer.  But is concerned, and feels the Bombards have a good point.  Businesses who do business by appointment will be just fine.  People who drop in to a business, it’s going to be a real problem.  There’s a real concern for the business community.  “No one on this Council is looking for businesses to suffer.”

Eddy: Could we get a feasibility study on adding a bridge to the side and how much it would cost?

Moseley: could put together a study to assess the feasibility.

(Holy crap, is Eddy actually doing a good job?!?)

He would appreciate the study before a decision is made.

Lukes: chairman’s order.

Rushton: how much could the study delay the project?

Moseley: will ask the contractor

Eddy: anything from Chief Dio about fire response?

Lukes: Chairman’s order.

Her response to all of this, thought we were under a strict deadline, but won’t take a vote this time because of the serious concerns.

Moseley: with full closure, were hoping to have it during the summer months.  Would not want to be looking at a closure through the winter months.

Rushton doesn’t share opinion that the 16 month option is a pro-business approach and the 4-month is a pro-resident approach.  He thinks four month summer cycle, when people are on vacation, there will a temporary loss of business, but not a permanent rewiring of how people shop.  He does it right now with Newton Square.  “If it’s two weeks for us to get a better decision, then it’s worthwhile.”

Lukes is not going for a vote tonight, but would lean towards the four month period.  “Unlike Mr. Rushton, I go through Newton Square and I refuse to change my pattern.”

Lukes:We will continue this meeting – may be longer than two weeks – we cannot afford to wait much longer.

(There was a question around the time I was leaving about whether a bridge could be fabricated nearby and then installed.  The short answer is that that wouldn’t work for this project.)