MarketStreet traffic worse than expected

Jul 10, 2018 by

Published in the July 10, 2018 edition.

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Traffic at MarketStreet Lynnfield has had a “profound impact” on the immediate area, a subcommittee for the MarketStreet Advisory Committee recently concluded.

Lynnfield Police Chief/MSAC member David Breen and MSAC member Jocelyn Fleming presented the Traffic Subcommittee’s report to the advisory committee recently.

“Since the opening of MarketStreet, traffic has been one of, if not, the main concern of many residents,” the report stated. “It does not matter the season, day of the week or time of the day. There is bound to be traffic as you approach MarketStreet. The traffic affects anyone traveling around the area (and) not just those individuals heading into MarketStreet.”

The subcommittee’s report stated the outdoor mall has generated more traffic than the previous occupant of the site, the Colonial Golf Course and Page’s at Colonial complex. The report stated that MarketStreet has created a major increase in traffic volume during both the non-holiday and holiday seasons.

According to the report, motorists unaware of the mall’s location have made U-turns on side streets and abutters’ driveways. The report noted the town was forced to “install signage on side streets” that prohibit U-turns.

The report stated massive back ups have occurred from Salem Street to Route 1 Saugus as well as from Walnut Street to Thomas Road. The intersections abutting the mall have been “gridlocked” because of the inability to move traffic through MarketStreet. The report stated the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has made “multiple traffic light adjustments.”

The traffic problems get worse during the holiday season, the report concluded. As part of an effort to reduce traffic during the holiday season, the report noted MarketStreet implemented a mitigation plan that included hiring staff to assist drivers with finding parking spots. The mall also hired detail officers to direct traffic inside MarketStreet as well as assist drivers at the Walnut Street intersections.

The report outlined a number of traffic problems that have occurred since the outdoor mall opened in 2013.

“Heading south of Walnut Street, you have to wait for a few lights before you can make a right-hand turn into MarketStreet,” the report states. “Currently, there is not enough room for a car to make a right-hand turn into MarketStreet while traffic is stopped going south on Walnut Street. Heading north on Walnut Street, you are sometimes backed almost into Saugus due to the timing of the lights and build up of traffic.

“Traffic backs up taking a right or left from Salem Street onto Walnut Street due to the timing of lights,” the report continues. “Residents have commented about sitting through several lights until they are able to take a turn. As traffic backs up for drivers taking a left turn into MarketStreet, non-MarketStreet drivers have to wait for several lights before being able to continue up Walnut Street. At times, especially on weekends, traffic is backed all the way up the ramp to Route 128, which makes residents angry as they sit in traffic just trying to get home.”

The report concluded that traffic increases during the summer when MarketStreet offers more outdoor activities such as Summer Night Concerts and Summer Movie Nights on The Green.

“Although traffic may be an indicator that business is booming at MarketStreet, it can also cause people to avoid the area and go elsewhere for the shopping and dining experience,” the report states. “With the one-way format, traffic occurs and there are not many options to exit the loop once stuck in the traffic. Furthermore, there is not enough room to drive around someone waiting for a parking space, which causes more traffic.”

According to data provided by the Police Department, 165 accidents have occurred in the MarketStreet area from 2013-2017. There were 31 motor vehicle thefts at the mall from 2013-2017. Additionally, there were 97 thefts from a motor vehicle from 2013-2017.

“Because most traffic accidents occur close to home, the area you live in greatly affects your rates,” the report stated. “More densely populated neighborhoods with more cars mean you are at a higher risk of accidents, theft and collisions with and without injuries. These can increase the insurance rates for motor vehicles.”

The calls for service have increased since MarketStreet opened. The report stated the Fire Department has responded to 282 calls from 2013-2017. The Police Department has responded to 1,429 calls from 2013-2017.

The report concluded that, “MarketStreet, as expected, has had a profound impact on traffic through the Route 128, Walnut Street (and) Salem Street corridor.”

“While it is not difficult to comprehend that a large retail/office complex would have an impact on public safety and traffic, the heavy volume that one would expect around the holiday shopping season appears to be reoccurring on a regular basis,” the report stated. “The traffic volumes and back ups have frustrated residents of Lynnfield and have presented challenges for public safety as well. At times, long delays have slowed response times for police and fire apparatus. Walnut Street is a narrow thoroughfare. When traffic gets backed up, it can be difficult and dangerous for public safety personnel and the general public when responding to emergency calls.”

The Traffic Subcommittee’s report noted that residents are concerned traffic will get worse once the Lahey building, also known as Building 1350, opens later this year. The report stated that National Development’s consultants claimed that the traffic impact from the Lahey Health building will be minimal.

“Both Lynnfield Police Department Chief Breen and Lynnfield Fire Department Chief (Mark) Tetreault find these estimates to be patently inaccurate,” the report concludes. “Building 1350 remains an enigma whose impact will not be known for at least 12 months after it opens and is fully leased.”

The Traffic Subcommittee also concluded that the 2012 VHB Traffic Report does not “appear to accurately describe current traffic conditions.”

Recommendations

The subcommittee’s report outlined several recommendations to alleviate traffic issues at MarketStreet.

The recommendations include installing adaptive traffic signals and creating a “dedicated right turn lane from Walnut Street into MarketStreet.”

The report also recommended that a dedicated right turn lane from Route 95 South at Exit 43 to Walnut Street be constructed. The report recommended constructing additional parking spaces or a parking garage in order to alleviate traffic congestion as people search for parking spots.

The subcommittee recommended that MarketStreet continue using mitigation strategies that were implemented during the holiday season. The report suggested reassessing whether to permit right turns at red lights.

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