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The Nightmare of Holland Street and Cameron Ave

Having problems navigating Cameron Avenue and Holland Street?

As a homeowner and Somerville native, I've noticed a great many changes throughout our town. Most recently, the amount of traffic that enters our once quiet neighborhoods during rush hour when people are on their way home.

Most recently, I have noticed the long stretch of cars which extend from the corner of Massachusetts Avenue onto Cameron Avenue. Anyone who travels this road understands the difficult maneuver which awaits them at the corner of Holland Street.  It can be very tricky navigating to the left or right in order to avoid an accident. 

What a relief it would be to wake up one morning to find a traffic light at that corner, a signal to help pedestrians cross as they rush down to Davis Square to catch the train to work. And the amount of time we would save if a light were there to help us get safely across to the other side of the roadway.

Some of the neighbors have noticed an increase of motorists using our street to bypass that intersection. This has led to a steady increase in cars speeding into our narrow streets.

I am concerned there could possibly be a serious accident at this intersection one day and I would like to heighten the awareness of safety for all concerned at this location.

Not far from this location, where our elementary school once stood, there was a fatal accident involving a young girl and motorist. It occured at what is now our neighborhood playground, Hodgkins Park. The tragic event prompted action so that children could cross safely in the future and to provide peace of mind to parents who no longer had to worry when their child crossed the street.  A traffic light was put there to avoid future accidents.

The intersection of Cameron and Holland has become an unsafe section of town and one that should require a traffic device. Many times I have seen mother's rushing with babies in strollers, people walking their dogs, and elderly--frozen with fear as they try to get across the street. The cross walk is not enough. A permanent light would ensure their safety and the safety of motorists and bicyclists at this intersection.

If you have been dealing with this issue as a motorist, pedestrian, bicyclist or just an observer, please share your story. I plan to be persistent on this issue with town officials until there is a remedy to ensure safety for all.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Elizabeth Lee November 10, 2012 at 01:47 PM
I agree!!! I live right around the corner from this intersection and literally fear crossing it. My husband and I always talk about how the city should put a light there. In the seven years that I've lived in this neighborhhod I have seen SO many close calls there, and like you, think it's just a matter of time before there is a serious accident. I, too, have seen parents with children and commuters run across while cars try to go around them. But what about disabled or elderly people who move slower? Even in the very early morning or late night you have to cross that street quickly and carefully because drivers fly down Holland and don't always consider that someone might be in the crosswalk. I am both a pedestrian and a driver in this area and would fully support a light here. Thank you for writing this.
Warren Dew November 10, 2012 at 06:42 PM
I use this intersection on my way home from work every day, turning right from Cameron to Holland on my way to my home near Tufts. It's not that much of a problem for me; I stop at the intersection, wait until there's a break in traffic, then turn right. As long as a traffic signal allowed a right turn on red, that would be fine with me, through traffic on Holland might object. Is the concern for pedestrians crossing Holland, or crossing Cameron? It seems to me there should be very little reason for crossing Holland at this intersection, since for most routes it would be just as easy to cross at Teele square or at the crosswalk near Hodgkins that has a signal light already. I always give pedestrians crossing Cameron right of way, but I don't know about other cars. If the issue is just the amount of traffic going through the neighborhood, you can get rid of most of it without a light at all. Most of this traffic is avoiding the route 2 / route 16 intersection at Alewife, which has a very bad backup for much of the day, even if you aren't using route 2. Turning that traffic light back into a traffic circle, or making it into a freeway style intersection without lights, and maybe changing some of the route 2 pedestrian crossings to be fast blinking yellow instead of reds or replacing them with pedestrian tunnels, would allow traffic to use route 16 again instead of routing it through surface streets in Somerville.
SomervilleGirl November 10, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Hello Elizabeth, Thank you for sharing your experience and concerns. As your neighbor and also a driver and pedestrian, I've stopped to allow pedestrians to cross while watching oncoming vehicles drive right by. Luckily, most are aware of the dangerous roadway and proceed with caution. I'm not sure what has created the surge of population, road rage and inconsiderate behavior. Maybe it is the recent development of Davis Sq., -new restaurants and coffee shops. An area I try to avoid. As a pedestrian, I notice more of my surroundings and vulnerabilities that exist on busy streets. I gave up driving to work and now take the "T", because it was too stressful to drive through this area and sections of Cambridge. Crazy bicyclists added to the stress. If you know others who are concerned, please encourage them to share their views on this blog. Maybe we can get a petition going and turn it into city hall. If you have a growing population within an already dense region, there is no other option but to install traffic devices so people are safe. I wonder if traffic experts would be interested in evaluating areas throughout the city and can tell us if traffic devices are required. I was a juror on a case involving an accident by an employee entering Rt. 1 Norwood, Polaroid. In the end, he lost the case against his employer. But the traffic expert by the defense, determined there were too many cars which created a dangerous intersection. It came down to town/corp.dispute.
SomervilleGirl November 10, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Warren, If we can manage to get a permanent light at this intersection, the right on red should be seriously considered. It would aid right turn drivers who are now stuck behind those trying to make a left hand turn onto Holland Street. In my opinion, there are issues on both cross walks--Cameron and Holland, Holland being the worse of the two since cars tend to pick up more speed. There is also the issue of drivers taking a left hand turn from Holland to Cameron which allows motorists behind them to surge out into the pedestrian cross walk making this dangerous to those who wish to cross. Their sight of the oncoming vehicle could be impaired by that of the stopped car making the left turn. I disagree, however, with your opinion that pedestrians should cross at Teele or Hodgkins Park lights. Those who use TAB (Tufts Admin.Bldg) are elderly who attend the senior center, workers/students, and voters who rely on the crosswalks. I do agree with your ideas regarding Rt. 16 and the Rt. 2 connection, but pedestrian tunnels would take a great deal of funding. This seems to be an issue which involves both Cambridge and Somerville. Tackling that would be another uphill battle.
Ron Newman November 10, 2012 at 11:44 PM
There's actually a very good reason for people to cross Holland Street here, as there's a walkway next to the TAB building and the former Powder House Community School, connecting to the corner of Broadway and Packard Avenue.
Mark Kaepplein November 10, 2012 at 11:59 PM
The solution is to enhance traffic flow where it is desired, so it overflows less into small roads and more residential areas. If lights are added somewhere, the traffic just becomes a problem elsewhere. Somerville and Cambridge need to stop removing transportation infrastructure. Mass population and sales tax revenues have been stagnant for over a decade. Removing transportation infrastructure by removing travel lanes and making intersections less efficient constrains economies. The reduction in travel lanes is NOT made up by an equal number of cyclists on the space, especially year round, rain, snow, or shine. Torturing drivers is not forcing enough mode shift to be justified.
SomervilleGirl November 11, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Mark, What you propose would be the solution if not a light? If people were to stop for red lights, it would allow for safe travel and keep the flow of traffic in heavily traveled areas. Another area is Wellington Station, again Rt. 16 into Everett. What I see is a lot of development going on all around us, with neglect to provide better roads so people have easier commutes. I am more inclined to believe there are two main issues at hand-- an unwillingness to spend the money on newer traffic devices, even speed ramps with yellow flashing lights, in addition to permanent lights and crossing lights. Can you imagine if all of our roadways did not have traffic devices? It would be total chaos.The other issue is neglect, ignorance and keeping things the way they are because people like it that way, regardless of how well it would improve the flow of traffic. "People want to live here, so who cares about the roads, we will still get our money, regardless". They wait until someone is severely injured or dead, before they finally get it. There are plenty of lawsuits with regard to accidents on the roads and no one is exempt--not the colleges, not the cities and not the drivers. So, get ready to break out that checkbook for the city appointed attorney, general counsel and defense lawyer. Putting in a traffic device is probably more expensive and would save future lives, make people happier to live here, who wants that?
Virginia November 16, 2012 at 01:28 PM
I want to agree about the need for a traffic light there. When I walk to Davis from Teele, I find it tricky to cross that intersection. But it is when driving home to Teele from Mass Ave, that it is tough to get onto Holland to go left from Cameron. I stop at the top of Cameron to turn left on Holland towards Teele. I must watch for pedestrians to the left and right crossing Cameron and the occasional pedestrians crossing Holland. In addition, while looking to the traffic on my left, coming downhill on Holland, I must look to the right to see if anyone coming up Holland will let me in. I look for bikes also ( both ways.) And it is dark too! Maybe the light could be flashing or not operative when traffic is low and in force during the rush hour.
SomervilleGirl November 17, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Hello Virginia, Thank you for your comment. We are hoping to build awareness to the residents of the area and those who travel through this intersection. I'm hoping for a permanent light and right on red sign to speed things up while keeping everyone safe. We are experiencing a bit of road rage in our adjacent neighborhood block by Cameron Ave., and it's frightening to watch the way some drivers cut through streets at night because they don't like to wait in the long line of cars which extend to Mass. Ave. on most nights. We need to contact our politicians and urge them to do something with this site. I'll continue to post updates as they come in if there are any measures to improve this intersection. Thanks for your comment and Happy Holidays.
Jamie O'Keefe November 18, 2012 at 02:04 PM
One thing about the intersection is that Cameron is on the down slope of the hill where it meets Holland. This situation encourages people to push their cars pass the crosswalk in order to see if cars are coming down Holland, especially from Teele Sq. A full stop light, not a blinking red for Cameron and blinking yellow for Holland, could help. Because of the hill, I am not sure whether a 2nd right lane on Cameron for a right turn on red would be a good idea. I would help with the flow, but doesn't solve the problem of people edging their cars past the cross walk to see down Holland to the left. One downside to this change is it would make it more difficult for pedestrians to cross as now they would have to wait for a walk light. Not sure it is a major issue, but it is one more thing to consider. Thanks for noting this problem!
Warren Dew November 19, 2012 at 12:21 AM
People edging their cars up don't generally cause accidents, since they are going at walking speed or below.

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