Despite concerns that new traffic configurations on Sigourney Street and Derby Road are causing headaches in the surrounding neighborhood streets, the new patterns will continue for at least one more month. However, at last week’s Traffic Commission meeting, the commission did agree to recommend the city undertake a comprehensive traffic study of all the streets along Squire Road in hopes of coming up with a traffic plan that addresses the larger concerns of the neighborhood.
In August, the Traffic Commission approved a 60-day trial changing the directions on Sigourney and Derby in response to concerns about decades of heavy traffic from motorists using the roads as a cut through between Malden Street and Squire Road. Derby Road is normally one-way coming off Squire Road all the way to Malden Street. The change made the lower half of Derby Road from Grover Street one-way going out to Squire Road, while the upper half of the road toward Malden Street remained unchanged. Conversely, Sigourney Street switched to a one-way street going from Grover Street toward Malden Street, while the bottom half of the street heading toward Squire Road remained unchanged.
While the Traffic Commission was planning on taking the issue up later this month after the 60-day trial, a raft of concerns from residents on the neighboring streets resulted in the special hearing last Thursday, Sept. 29. The commission heard from both residents of Sigourney and Derby who said the change has improved the situation, as well as residents of nearby Charger, Grover, Orvis and other streets who said the changes have sent more traffic speeding past their homes.
Longtime Sigourney Street resident Joanne Giannino also spoke out against some of the online rumors and abuse she said her family has faced since the changes went into effect. “People have been directing this at my granddaughter [state Representative Jessica Giannino], who has nothing to do with it,” Giannino said. “They are not picking on the 81-year-old lady who is responsible for this. I’m the one who got the petition, not my son and not my granddaughter.”
Kelli Resendes, who lives at the corner of Derby and Grover, was representative of those who spoke in favor of the traffic pattern changes. “The changes have been good for our neighborhood,” said Resendes, noting that in addition to the traffic, there has always been an abundance of trash in the neighborhood from the nearby fast-food restaurants. “I understand that it has pushed some traffic other ways, but like [Giannino] said, they are just getting a little of what we’ve dealt with for … years.” Resendes was also among those on both sides of the issue who suggested the city look at a way to help the whole neighborhood, rather than going about the changes piecemeal.
“What we want to get across to everybody – with the discussion of adverse effects on other streets – we should address those streets accordingly in the future, not reverse what we have already done,” said Sigourney Street resident Dan Forte.
Longtime Orvis Road resident Deborah DeFillipo said the impact of the changes hasn’t been too bad on her street, but she said her neighbors on Augustus Street and Gore Road have not been as lucky. DeFillipo said the traffic pattern changes have made Derby and Sigourney essentially resident-only streets to the detriment of the surrounding streets. “Studies have shown that reducing traffic on one street is counterproductive, as traffic will simply be diverted to another street,” she said. “The net result will be more congestion and problems overall.”
DeFillipo presented a petition from area residents and requested that the traffic commissioners reverse their decision on Derby and Sigourney and have the city hire an engineer to evaluate and study the flow of traffic from all streets along the impacted corridor from Marshall Street to Patriot Parkway.
“We certainly have a problem here, and I agree that a professional traffic engineer should study the whole area from Brenton Street to Patriot Parkway,” said DPW Superintendent and Traffic Commission Chair Paul Argenzio.
Argenzio and the commission members said they would support pushing for a traffic study that would lead to a comprehensive traffic plan for the area. However, the commission stopped short of reversing its August decision on Sigourney and Derby and agreed to let the trial proceed for the full 60 days.
“I feel for everybody here, but I don’t think it is fair for us to ping pong back and forth, so my motion is to carry out and finish the 60-day trial and go from there at our October meeting,” said City Engineer and Traffic Commission member Nicholas Rystrom.