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CITY COUNCIL ROUNDUP: Bus/bike lanes issue on Centre Street/Rt. 60 draws packed house to City Council meeting Tuesday

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Council votes down call for ballot question banning transit lanes by new group — ‘Keep Malden Moving’


By Steve Freker


One of the biggest turnouts in many years packed Tuesday night’s first meeting of the fall season for the Malden City Council.

Residents on both sides of the issue of the three-year-old installation of dedicated bus-only and bicycle lanes on Malden’s most heavily-traveled roadway— Centre Street/Rt. 60 came to either express their views, or listen to others do the same.

After a perhaps record-setting public comment portion of the City Council meeting which lasted for nearly 90 minutes, the points made were quite clear:

  1.  A) Many Malden residents are simply fed up and overwhelmed with the oppressive and exhausting traffic delays being experienced by thousands of motorists all day and most of the night on the Centre Street/Rt. 60 traffic corridor;
  2. B) There is a strong, vocal and vibrant segment of the community which is very much in favor of all dedicated bus and bicycle lanes in the city of Malden, citing overall safety and the boon to the environment which they say the transit lanes provide;
  3. C) Few, if any, of the Malden City Councillors are fans of the MBTA, in any area.

“I’m not against buses and bikes… but the traffic is outrageous and uncalled-for,” was common refrain by the over a dozen residents who spoke in favor of a resolution on Tuesday night’s Council docket calling for the placement of a non-binding question on the November municipal election ballot calling for the elimination of bus and bike lanes on Route 60.

While none of the 15-plus residents who spoke in favor of retaining the bus/bike lanes on Centre/Rt. 60 dispute the traffic woes widespread on that roadway, they were adamant in their support of dedicated transit lanes.

The first proposed Council Order read: 307-23 Order: That the following non-binding question be included on the November 7, 2023 Municipal Election ballot, subject to review, edit and approval of the City Clerk and City Solicitor. Should the City of Malden remove all bus and bike lanes from Route 60, return any funds required, and prohibit any future bus lanes or bike lanes from being approved that would cause an elimination of motor vehicle traffic lanes or inhibit parking in the city?”

The second, related, proposed Order read: 308-23 Order: That the following non-binding question be included on the November 7, 2023 Municipal Election ballot, subject to review, edit and approval of the City Clerk and City Solicitor. Should the City of Malden remove and prohibit any future bike lanes, which create traffic lanes that are bumped out at any point after the beginning or end of any street?”

The impetus for the ballot question request came from a new activist group recently formed in Malden called “Keep Malden Moving”.

In a statement on the website Change.org, which sponsors petition drives, which Keep Malden is pursuing, they made the following statement: We (Keep Malden Moving) respectfully request that you take immediate action:
– Remove all existing bus and bike lanes from Route 60.
– Return any funds allocated towards these lanes to their original source.
– Prohibit any future approval of bus or bike lanes that would result in the elimination of motor vehicle traffic lanes or hinder parking availability.
“By doing so, you will alleviate traffic congestion, improve safety conditions, and ensure that the needs of all commuters are considered when planning transportation projects in our city.”

Before taking a vote on the matter, all of the Councillors agreed that the promised re-signalization of the traffic lights at all of the intersections where the painted bus and bicycle lanes exist — which never happened— was the main reason for the massive traffic congestion.

“The lights are the key— that has not been addressed and now we have a disaster,” Ward 1 Councillor Peg Crowe.

Ward 8 Councillor Jadeane Sica, who was listed as a sponsor of the two ballot question resolutions — which she stressed as a courtesy to Malden residents who asked for her assistance in placing it on the Council agenda — noted that it would be possible to come with alternative solutions to the overall issue.

“Why do we have to have these lanes open 24-7? Is it not possible to have a limit on the hours to relieve traffic congestion? We have to look at everything. We have to address this,” Councillor Sica added.

In a memorandum to the Council, Mayor Gary Christenson specifically referred to progress being made in the re-signalization on the Route 60/Centre Street corridor and plans for a formal traffic study to be undertaken both before and after the traffic signal changes.

The vote on adding the ballot question failed by an 8-3 vote, with Councillors Sica, Craig Spadafora (at large) and Barbara Murphy (Ward 5) voting in favor and Councillors Peg Crowe (Ward 1), Paul Condon (Ward 2), Amanda Linehan (Ward 3), Ryan O’Malley (Ward 4), Stephen Winslow (Ward 6), Chris Simonelli (Ward 7), Karen Colon Hayes (at large) and Carey McDonald (at large) voting against.

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