Traffic has been an ongoing issue in the South Medford area for some time, and the City Council wants the city and project leaders in the area to readdress the traffic management plans to help mitigate the issue.
City councilors Frederick Dello Russo and Adam Knight led the discussion during Tuesday night's City Council meeting and explained that South Medford has been negatively affected by the numerous construction projects in the area.
"It is an unprecedented amount of construction going on," Dello Russo asserted. "Unprecedented."
Some of the different projects include the Green Line Extension, Harvard Street Gas Main Replacement, Wynn Casino and the Eversource Pipeline Project, and Knight explained it is an "impossible situation" driving to South Medford from Medford Square during rush hour.
"It is turning into a significant issue in the neighborhood more so than we have seen in the past," Knight said. "We created this problem."
One South Medford resident stated it is very difficult to live in the neighborhood with the daily traffic caused by the different construction projects.
"We have been impacted tremendously by it," she said. "It's every day. It's unbelievable. I hope something can be done about it."
Other residents in the area are not happy as well.
"Life is miserable," South Medford resident Ann Fretts said. "And no one cares."
Dello Russo explained he wants the different project leaders, the city, and residents to meet during the summer before the traffic hits again after Labor Day and construct a plan on how to better handle the traffic caused by their different construction projects.
"It is very important for us to sit down and convene some time over the summer for the citizens to get all of the project leaders with us in a community meeting," Dello Russo said. "Let's protect our citizens and the tranquility of the neighborhoods."
Knight agreed with Dello Russo and said the main problem is that none of the project leaders are working together in the city.
"Currently, it isn't working," Knight said. "I am excited to see the growth in the community but in the meantime, we need relief."
However, Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke said they do have a cohesive plan managing the different projects.
"It is centralized through our Engineering office and Police Department," Burke explained. "They are the leads on what's going on there. It is definitely being centralized with Police and Engineering, and they have dealt with all of the different contractors that are affected by this."
City Councilor Michael Marks mentioned he has received many emails from residents about the traffic issues, but stated the traffic problem "impacts the entire city," not just South Medford. He further explained that he wants to create a comprehensive citywide traffic neighborhood plan involving the whole city.
"No matter where you live in this community, we are all experiencing this," Marks said. "We are all connected together. This is a much larger issue. Hopefully, we will get results."
City Councilor Richard Caraviello also asserted that the traffic issues involve the whole city and said the drive share program is a big reason for it. He then noted that he doesn't see a likely solution to the traffic problems.
"The ride share services have put more than a million cars on the city streets," Caraviello said. "No city is immune to this problem anymore. There is nowhere for the cars to go. I don't know if there is an answer to this problem."
However, Knight believes the particular traffic problems in South Medford were caused by the city, and he is more optimistic there is a solution to South Medford's traffic issues that are within the city's "scope and control."
"I don't want to lose impact on South Medford," Knight said. "We need to look at this. We made this mistake and we can fix it."
Knight further stated they can further look at detour routes and re-time the light settings on the streets to hopefully help solve part of the problem, and other councilors suggested creating a trucking unit and enforcing trucks to avoid driving down certain side streets.
"This would be a very fruitful exercise to have the powers that be really analyze what's going on," Knight said.
Burke said she recognizes the heavy traffic in the South Medford area, but also mentioned it is not just a South Medford or even a Medford problem, but a "regional issue."
"It's an everywhere issue," Burke asserted. "We work with our state partners all the time and really it is trying to get people into public transit and to the buses as much as they can and out of their vehicles. People grow accustomed to having their convenience of their cars. It's hard to break that cycle."
However, Burke said the city is currently working on mitigating some of the traffic issues that have resulted from some of the projects. For example, for the Green Line Extension project, Burke said the Police Department, Engineering Department and traffic engineer have met "regularly" with the Green Line project leaders to come up with a plan and discuss detour routes. In addition, Burke said the city ran a trial on Harvard Street for a few days this past week by closing Harvard Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to get more work done in that period so they can leave both lanes open during rush hour.
"We appreciate and apologize that people are dealing with traffic issues but there are reasons behind them, and we have been very open about the reasons and we have publicized the reasons," Burke said. "We would love to see less traffic, believe me. We knew it was going to be hard. We knew it would be difficult for the people living in the area but we did everything we could to try to make it as easy as possible."