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Pond Street residents feeling neglected, Lynch traffic plan doesn’t address their concerns

This proposed rendering of improvements at Middlesex Street at Canal Street showcases the intended pedestrian-friendly enhancements for the Canal Street Lynch Elementary School, featuring expanded crosswalks and curb extensions on Pond Street. But residents on Pond Street say it’s not enough and their concerns aren’t being listened to when it comes to the school project. COURTESY PHOTO/TOWN OF WINCHESTER

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When it comes to the Lynch School project, Pond Street residents are perplexed and concerned their voices are not being heard.

School Committee Chair Tom Hopcroft told the Select Board last week that when Town Meeting voted in 2023 to appropriate $400,000 aimed at funding engineering services associated with the Lynch School project and surrounding neighborhoods, Pond Street residents believed it would be part of the plan. After all, it directly abuts the school.

“However, at the recent Select Board meeting on March 11, Erica Guidoboni of Toole Design, the town’s contracted engineering services firm, noted that Pond Street, the quarter itself, is not particularly part of this project,” said Hopcroft, who said he was speaking solely as a Pond Street resident.

Hopcroft argued that Pond Street carries 75% of the area’s traffic, including school buses and half the cars arriving daily at the Lynch School. It also has the highest recorded traffic speeds, he said.

“The Pond Street community is supportive of the traffic improvements recommended by Toole Design on Royal, Middlesex, Canal, Brantwood, Woodside, Norfolk and Chesterford roads, but are perplexed by the omission of Pond Street from the scope of traffic calming given the disproportionate impact,” Hopcroft read from a prepared statement. “We urge the Select Board to instruct Toole to add meaningful traffic calming measures for Pond Street.”

Hopcroft said the Pond Street community sent the town a detailed letter containing 60 signatures outlining concerns with the project. He said the letter noted that Pond Street is a narrow road with impaired sight lines, minimum shoulders, homes within feet of the road and a continuous sidewalk on only one side of the road.

He added roughly 250 vehicles have been recorded traveling the road each school day, averaging 40 miles per hour and at least one in excess of 70 mph. He called crossing the street to get to the sidewalk a life-threatening proposition and as a result, many families that live within walking distance end up driving their kids to school, which only adds to the congestion at pick up and drop off time.

“The increase in heavy trucks on Pine Street over the past decade is also a significant concern,” he said.

Hopcroft said when the geometry of the Pond Street/Cambridge Road intersection was changed and signs restricting heavy trucks were removed, the town failed to consider the impact that would have on the neighborhood.

Hopcroft said the Pond Street community would like to work with the board to ensure that Pond Street is included in any traffic safety improvement plan before it goes before Town Meeting in a few short weeks for funding.

And another thing

Hopcroft wasn’t the only Pond Street resident speaking up at the April 1 board meeting. John McSweeney said he felt communication between residents and the town regarding the project had been “rather limited.”

He said only direct abutters received notice about the project and the most recent hearing on the plan was scheduled the same night as the Lynch Parent Association meeting, forcing parents to choose between the two.

“I feel that the voices of the concerned citizens have not been heard,” said McSweeney. “I think the whole Lynch School community should be involved in this.”

McSweeney said he’s lived on Pond for 12 years and has seen the traffic increase. Semi-trucks roll down the road routinely and foliage around tight road bends is frequently overgrown, making it difficult to see if there are cyclists or runners, he explained.

Another resident, who has lived at 136 Pond St. for 46 years, said he was speaking selfishly when he said, “I just don’t want to get killed.”

He said he has seen too many accidents at Chesterford and Pond and an increase in the volume and speed of both trucks and cars and it’s more than the street can handle. 

Is it too late?

Later in the meeting, after hearing the neighbor’s concerns, newly elected Select Board Chair Michelle Prior asked Town Manager Beth Rudolph if there would be time before Town Meeting or before the actual work getting underway for more community input.

“I think the window is very close to closing at this point,” Rudolph said.

Rudolph said she appreciated McSweeney and Hopcroft’s concerns and pointed out there had been several public meetings for residents to air concerns. But she also offered to bring Toole back in to further explain the decisions it made regarding the project and including eliminating the truck restrictions on Pond.

“I’m happy to have Toole come back and provide kind of an update on what they looked at on Pond Street, what the constraints are and what the possible solutions there may be going forward,” she said.

Board member Anthea Brady suggested they might wait on any design changes since an Eversource project is slated to dig up the area from the Woburn sub-station to Cambridge Street almost a year after the Lynch project is started. She said that could be the time to see what changes could be made to the entire corridor.

Hopcroft said for him the whole thing boils down to a safety issue.

“Cars are going over 40 mph, there’s a 73% chance of a fatality or significant injury if you hit a 15-year-old or older and we’re talking about children and we’re talking about 18 wheeler trucks and there are no sidewalks on the north side of the street … the speed is insane,” he said.

Hopcroft said Pond Street residents have participated in the forums, sent in a letter and still feel like their fears are not being honored.

Prior asked if they could have Toole meet with the community, but Rudolph said she’d rather have them meet with the board first so it can understand how evaluations were made, “and we can go from there.”

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