Neighbors Look to Put Brakes on Pond Avenue Speed Plan
Some worry effort to slow traffic on Pond Avenue could make it worse on High Street.
When Brookline transportation officials and Pill Hill neighbors reached a stalemate in discussion about traffic in the neighborhood, they decided to settle it the old fashion way: with a road race.
The race, which was conducted under police supervision on Dec. 9, was meant to test whether a series of speed humps on Pond Avenue would worsen speeding on the parallel High Street, as some neighbors worry. But it has far from settled the debate for some.
"I don't think the town was looking at this from a broader perspective than just one street," said Diana Post, a longtime High Street resident. "And everything you do on one street in one way or another will affect others."
The debate comes as the Brookline Transportation Board prepares to move ahead with a proposal that would add five raised crosswalks—essentially speed bumps—on Pond Avenue between Route 9 and Chestnut Street. The plan is meant to slow traffic on the street, which has a posted speed of 25 MPH, and create better pedestrian access to Olmsted Park.
But in an unusual turn of events, at least for Brookline, some neighbors are accusing town officials of moving too quickly on the traffic-calming measure, saying the town should embark on a comprehensive study of traffic issues in the area before costly roadwork is undertaken. They point to several big projects coming down the pipeline, including a massive medical office building proposed for nearby Brookline Place and an overhaul of Route 9 that town officials are calling "Village Square."
"I think the town ought to have a broader to look at traffic problems in this part of town and come up with a more neighborhood-wide traffic plan rather than focusing on one street at a time, which is what they seem to do," Post said.
Transportation officials, on the other hand, insist that it was comprehensive study that led to the proposal for Pond Avenue and High Street. "It seems to me that we know what we need to know about both streets," said Michael Sandman, chair of the Transportation Board.
Some neighbors, however, still worry that installing speed bumps on Pond Avenue—a popular cut-through for traffic heading north out of Jamaica Plain—could send more drivers up High Street, which has a speed limit of 35 MPH despite being a narrower, more residential road than Pond Avenue.
"To favor one street over another, it runs counter to traffic calming," said John Carpenter. "It's just reckless to spend that kind of money when all you read is the paper is the Brookline is having financial problems."
To test the concern, town officials and neighbors ran a test earlier this month with four cars running a variety of routes from Chestnut Street to the intersection of Pond Street and Route 9 on the other side of Pill Hill. The car that took Pond Avenue completed the trip in half as much time as a car taking High Street, even when slowing five times to simulate the proposed speed bumps.
But the results did little to quell some neighbors' concerns that the town's plan would send more speeding cars up High Street. They say the problem is not traffic during rush hour—when congestion actually forces cars to slow down anyhow—but the occasional speeding drivers who don't want to slow down for speed bumps and would rather take the more roundabout route up High Street. Neighbors say they'd like to see the speed limit on High Street lowered.
In response to neighbors' concerns, town officials have amended the proposal to include redraw the curbs near High Street and Highland Avenue in an effort to slow traffic and make the intersection safer for pedestrians. Rob Daves, the president of the High Street Hill Neighborhood Association, said many residents appear to support the plan.
"There seemed to be general consensus that the plan was OK, but there are a few folks who have been quite vocal," he said.
The Transportation Board is expected to consider the latest plans at a meeting on Jan. 20.