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Planners Make Changes to Beacon Street Reconstruction Design

New plans for Beacon Street could recapture parking spaces lost in a previous design.

Designers have made changes to plans for the reconstruction of Beacon Street that could recover several parking spaces lost in a previous design proposal.

By moving parking to the south side of Beacon Street, the new design would include nearly 10 more parking spots than a previous design, which called for parking on the north side of the street, according to Hayes Morrison, Somerville's director of transportation and infrastructure.

In addition, the city "is trying to identify parcels that would be willing to rent," Morrison said, explaining those parcels would be used for off-street parking. Planners are trying to identify another 30 to 40 parking spaces through renting, she said.

All told, the updated design and attempt to secure off-street parking spots could bring around 40 to 50 parking spaces to Beacon Street that weren't included in the previous design. The previous reconstruction design would have eliminated about 111 parking spaces along Beacon Street. It, like the current plan, would also have created cycle tracks along the roadway.

A number of residents and business owners along Beacon Street objected to the lost parking, while cyclists supported the cycle tracks.

Morrison spoke after a meeting about the Beacon Street reconstruction held Monday night at the Argenziano School. At the meeting, representatives for cyclists, business owners, pedestrians and residents spoke about the plans. About 100 people attended the meeting.

In regard to the city renting off-street parking spots—some have suggested the Star Market on Beacon Street might be willing to rent spots to the city—Morrison said those spots would likely have parking meters. The city rents parking spaces from private owners in Davis Square, and the parking meters pay for the costs, she said, adding, "It's a self-funding thing, if not a revenue generator." On Beacon Street, the city would look at ways to let residents park at off-street meters, at least over night, without paying, Morrison said.

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is holding a public hearing on Feb. 4 about the Beacon Street reconstruction plans, Morrison said. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Kennedy School.

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Creating a Better Beacon Street

AHM January 29, 2013 at 10:46 AM
And the new owners of the Star sell off the lot for condos and what happens then? Have the think ahead. Still can't put that square peg in a round hole. Space does not fit, common sense. I would like bike tracks all over the city, but let's be realalistic here. Pave the street and make do, use the leftover money for homeless and starving people making better use of the money.
mark January 29, 2013 at 02:27 PM
As someone who lives two blocks off of Beacon, I can't wait to see this happen! I think Beacon Street will be better for it. I also think this plan is better for all the input from residents over the past 6 months. Could it be better? Yes, but at some point we have to move on and fix this road. As for parking, the problem revolves around not pricing and regulating smartly the parking that we have. Development or not, cycle tracks or not, in this city we have a limited parking supply. The price of parking should reflect that supply (with large discounts for low income people). With the money raised we could support homeless organizations and starving people, or lower our tax rates.
Somerville Home Owner January 29, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Large parking discounts foe low income people. How would that work exactly? To be fair it has to be a sliding scale , not an income threshold below which the price drops dramatically. how do you know everyone's income, especially visitors from outside city??
Alex January 29, 2013 at 03:00 PM
I am enthusiastic about the plan as a Beacon Street resident and hope that the design details continue to be improved by public process. This will improve property values and make our neighborhood a better place. NOTE: I'm disappointed to see the false soundbite come up again in this article that the "design would have eliminated about 111 parking spaces...to make room for cycle tracks." In fact some 30 spaces next to the Academy are going away to make room for a sidewalk and thus for pedestrian safety. Another 15-20 spaces are illegal and have to disappear no matter what gets built. And 30 more metered spaces between Ivaloo Street and Washington Street are next to a Harvard wall and are almost never used. So let's stop framing this as parking versus bikes. It's about balancing parking with pedestrians, bikes, and the desirability of the neighborhood.
Daniel Shugrue January 29, 2013 at 03:29 PM
As a Somerville resident and father of two, I am very much hoping to have an dedicated area that I can ride with my sons without fearing that their lives will be taken by a car door or distracted motorist. A cycle track is an excellent way to promote cycling for Somerville's youth.
kevin thomas crowley January 29, 2013 at 04:08 PM
once again, "wisdom cries out in the streets." top down planning hardly ever works on neighborhood planning. i'm glad the whole plan was given another look after citizens voiced their concerns. seems things may work out.
Chris Orchard (Editor) January 29, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Alex: You make a good point. The road redesign is a lot more complex than simply taking away parking spots to make room for cycle tracks, and I don't want to imply a causality where it might not exist in such simple terms. Some do see the design as bicycle versus parking, while others do not see it that way. I have re-worded that sentence above. Thanks.
BrianM January 29, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Alex: OK, so maybe it's not 111 parking spots, but they're also not evenly spaced along the entire road. By your math, we're still losing 30-40 parking spots -- and almost all of those spots are between Oxford Street and Museum Street. That means anyone who lives on that half-mile stretch of road is going to lose 50 percent of the parking available in what already is a car-dense area. (Just step outside and look at that stretch of road sometime -- day, night, whenever. No matter what the parking "study" says, there are too many cars to cut available parking by 50 percent.) Additionally, there still has been no discussion about what's going to happen one night per week when street sweeping happens or during snow emergencies. Until all of this is resolved, those of us who have to have cars and park them near are homes are going to keep "framing this as parking versus bikes," but thanks, anyway.
David Olmsted January 29, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Last night was collaborative and progressive, and should have happened way before the design was 25%. Although it felt like we were given an opportunity to influence the design, alternatives aren't being considered - but feel free to discuss what kind of shrubs you'd really like to see.
kevin thomas crowley January 29, 2013 at 05:11 PM
honeysuckle would be my preference.
AHM January 29, 2013 at 07:11 PM
Before I start they are going to do this. I know that. First of all thsi is millions of dollars spent for just a tiny few people. Less than 10% of the people. All money for this will be borrowed either by us the state or wherever it comes from. This is not going to benefit most everyone in Somerville and for that kind of money it should. If we had plenty of loose money laying around that is one thing. We owe big time. Projects like this really should be put to a vote, in which case we know that won't happen. A lot of things would be nice but we have to be realistic. This is not bike against car.
Ron Newman January 29, 2013 at 10:02 PM
This road needs to be rebuilt, no matter what. Letting it fall apart further isn't a good idea. I doubt that the bike-specific parts of the plan add significantly to the cost.
BrianM January 30, 2013 at 12:56 AM
Hear, hear. Incidentally, if this is the mayor's pet project, where was the mayor at last night's meeting?

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