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Save our trees! Save Kittredge Park!

This petition had 130 supporters

MassDOT plans construction beginning Spring 2017 on Route 38 at four intersections along the Route 38 corridor (Phoenix Avenue, Boylston Street, Andover Street, and East Merrimack Street). Planning started in 2010, and 25% design was completed 2/26/2016. The estimated total cost is $4.4 million. This is a focus for the State because of the high number of crashes at the intersections targeted for improvement. Nesmith/Andover had 29 crashes in 2014—more than any other intersection that year—and 7th in the region in 2010-2012, with 19 injuries during that time.

Critically, the major focus of the project includes widening Nesmith Street between Andover Street and East Merrimack Street from two 18’ lanes with exclusive left turn lanes at either end to four 11’ through lanes. This would require removing the existing 10’ buffer between sidewalk and park and all the trees on it. We believe the project is important, but it must be changed in these ways:

Save the Trees
6 mature trees in Kittredge Park and an additional 2 near East Merrimack cannot be removed. Trees slow traffic and reduce crashes by 5 to 20%, reduce asthma health impacts, and increase neighboring home value by $15-20,000, among many other effects. These trees only provide this level of benefit when planted between a sidewalk and the street.

Respect the History
Kittredge Park is the centerpiece of the Washington Square historic district, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1831, the neighborhood was created, and Nesmith Street was a 60’ tree-lined boulevard with deeds requiring residents to plant more trees. This wasn’t just a street, but a “special place” that attracted many of Lowell’s elite. The park gained more special history when Paul Tsongas “adopted” it as one of his favorite parks, volunteering in it throughout his life.

Wider Lanes Don’t Mean Safer Streets
Although the intersection is dangerous now, that usually results in fender-benders and other minor accidents. Although there may be fewer accidents when cars may drive faster down the street, accidents will be much more dangerous when they do happen. This is especially true when it isn’t rush hour—the wide lanes have been proven to encourage speeding.

Don’t Make it Less Walkable
A major project at the Lord Overpass is being planned to make it more pleasant to walk along and easier to cross. The Bridge Street/VFW project simplified the intersection, helping pedestrians and cars alike. This project makes things actively worse for pedestrians. They’ll have more street width to cross and will no longer be protected by trees as they walk along Nesmith. At a moment when we’re trying to encourage people to walk from Belvidere to downtown, it’s the exact wrong approach.

Maintain Environmental Justice
Importantly, the Lower Belvidere neighborhood qualifies as an “environmental justice” neighborhood as defined by the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Policy. These families, who have small or no yards and dense housing, rely on the park and playground for outdoor activity. Widening Nesmith Street will make the park less enjoyable and harder to get to for this population, a very unjust outcome.

Overall Congestion won’t be reduced: A System-wide Approach is Needed
Although planners claim that widening Nesmith Street will remove a bottleneck, the street will remain at one lane in either direction capacity south of Andover. The bridges will also remain bottleneck areas. We have seen no evidence or analysis that easing traffic on the street won’t just push bottlenecks to elsewhere in the City. What we need is a thorough analysis of traffic in Lowell and an understanding of how much is to and from Lowell and how much is through Lowell before we can understand how we can divert auto traffic and encourage other modes to better fight congestion.

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