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Residents Blast Worcester Sidewalk Expansion for Traffic Problems

Friday, June 13, 2014


While the city of Worcester aims to create a more pedestrian friendly downtown, local residents have noticed an undesirable increase of traffic in the downtown area.

The city hopes that the enlarged sidewalks will create a more walkable city, one where citizens and tourists alike can explore downtown. The problem with these wider sidewalks is that parking and traffic lanes have been compromised, creating issues with traffic and parking.

“Some of the people that I have talked to are concerned about all of the construction and the expanded sidewalks,” said Bill McCarthy, a Worcester representative of the Massachusetts Republican Party. “The city is focusing on making downtown more attractive, but that doesn’t mean that it is a place that people want to visit. We should focus more on reducing taxes so that businesses want to come downtown.”

Vehicular traffic has been reportedly at its worst in front of City Hall, in front of the DCU Center, and on Front Street. Because of these areas receiving high volumes of traffic, all of Main Street and downtown has seen an unsettling increase of traffic.

A More Walkable City

The city’s motives may be in question, the intention behind the Worcester City Hall Sidewalk Renovation Project and other sidewalk expansion projects around the city is to make Worcester a more pedestrian safe city in hopes that it would bring more foot traffic and business to the area.

City Hall, one of the areas affected by the construction

Traffic may be compromised a bit as a result, the city’s plan moving forward is to focus on creating a downtown that is structurally sound, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing, making it an area of town that people actually want to spend time walking around and interacting in.

“My administration is committed to making Worcester a more walkable city,” said City Manager Edward Augustus. “As part of any infrastructure project, we are looking for ways to increase pedestrian access and safety. Improving and expanding the city’s sidewalks is a deliberate piece of that strategy.”

Vehicle Traffic vs. Pedestrian Traffic

Improving sidewalks and ease of pedestrian access may be the priority of the city, but many feel that the ends don’t justify the means.

John Weston, a talk show host from WCRN, says that if the city really wants to bring more business to downtown Worcester, then a change of approach is necessary. Making the roads narrower and getting rid of parking options – which forces people to pay for parking lots and garages – is not the way to get people to want to come downtown and spend their money.

“It is amazing to me that the city keeps saying that they want to bring more business downtown because they have been very counterproductive,” said Weston. “All of this just seems very poorly planned. There aren’t that many people that live in the downtown area, which means that to walk downtown, you have to commute. Putting such an emphasis on pedestrian traffic just seems silly to me.”

Looking Forward

Vehicular traffic has been a hindrance as of late in the downtown area but Kathleen Toomey, a Worcester City Councilor and Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Works, says that increased traffic is to be expected with any sort of roadwork project.

While not hearing many complaints about the volume of traffic, Toomey has heard grumblings of the out of sync traffic signals, something that the city is working to improve. While traffic flow may be bad now, Toomey says that it is something that the city will work improve in the future.

“The city is working on the issue of traffic right now,” said Toomey. “Dealing with traffic and flow patterns in a city is a lot like a puzzle; you have to keep working until all the pieces fit together. There may be a great deal of construction going on, but a lot of these traffic issues will only be temporary.”


Related Slideshow: The Central MA Cities with the Most Expensive Car Insurance

A new ranking for how expensive -- or cheap -- auto insurance is in the Commonwealth has been released by consumer website ValuePenguin for the state's nearly 5 million drivers. ValuePenguin reviewed auto insurance rates in MA for 7 different driver profiles from 35 insurers in the 179 cities with a population over 10,000. The blended cost for each was yielded from the following methodolody:

Included in the study were sample annual premiums from 35 companies, from ACE to Vermont Mutual. Seven kinds of driver situations were represented, including single adults of various years of driving experience, three married couples, and a married couple with a teenaged driver. Rates were pulled for policies covering the minimum liability limits per Massachusetts law up to 100/300/100 for married couples.

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23. Northborough

Average Cost: $1043

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22. Uxbridge

Average Cost: $1053

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21. Hopkinton

Average Cost: $1062

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20. Lunenberg

Average Cost: $1098

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19. Westborough

Average Cost: $1156

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18. Hudson

Average Cost: $1184

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17. Gardner

Average Cost: $1196

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16. Holden

Average Cost: $1196

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15. Winchendon

Average Cost: $1197

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14. Northbridge

Average Cost: $1203

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13. Grafton

Average Cost: $1216

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12. Charlton

Average Cost: $1247

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11. Millbury

Average Cost: $1270

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10. Leominster

Average Cost: $1285

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9. Milford

Average Cost: $1286

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8. Shrewsbury

Average Cost: $1301

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7. Auburn

Average Cost: $1340

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6. Clinton

Average Cost: $1340

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5. Southbridge

Average Cost: $1351

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4. Spencer

Average Cost: $1353

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3. Leicester

Average Cost: $1386

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2. Webster

Average Cost: $1394

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1. Worcester

Average Cost: $1764


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