City Council Special Meeting: Changes to Riverside Drive

Lowell City Council held two meetings on Monday night. The first was a special meeting called to discuss traffic on Riverside Drive. It was well attended by residents of the street, and all councilmembers were present as well.

Traffic Concerns on Riverside Drive

Residents on Riverside Drive have long expressed concerns about speeding traffic on their road. The street is one-way northbound from Elm Street, and many people apparently use the road to reach Flat River Drive or bypass the light at Main and Hudson.

The Lowell Police Department set up a portable speed trailer to capture the number of vehicles traveling on the road and how fast they were going. The sign was set to display speeds for part of the collection period. Then, the display was turned off to see how that affected traffic.

Police Chief Chris Hurst said that 3,878 vehicles were tracked going northbound on Riverside Drive from June 3-10. Speeds were as follows:

  • 67% were traveling at 25 miles per hour or slower
  • 31% were traveling at 26-35 mph
  • 2% were traveling at speeds greater than 35 mph

“I was really surprised that there were that many cars in a week period,” Hurst said. He shared that the average speed when the display was on was 23 mph. It was slightly higher when the display was off, but not by much, according to Hurst. The busiest times on the road are between 2-4pm.

“A large portion of the people who are driving that road are driving the speed limit,” the police chief said.

“What alarms me…is 3,800 cars a week going through that roadway that’s deemed a local road,” said City Manager Mike Burns. Noting that the road is scheduled for repaving, he added: “Once it’s paved, we know it’s going to be a drag strip.”

Riverside Traffic to Be Diverted at Elm

Four possible configurations were presented, each intended to disrupt the flow of traffic northbound. The clear favorite of both councilmembers and many of the Riverside Drive residents in attendance appeared to be a suggestion to erect a barricade at Elm Street to require traffic to turn west toward Hudson.

Nine residents spoke during the meeting with most expressing concerns about the number of vehicles and their speed.

Perry Beachum, who lives in the 900 block, didn’t think the volume of traffic on his part of the road was a problem but said they might get the occasional speeder. He worried about how diverting traffic on Elm would affect the Roth-Gerst Funeral Home and suggested placing two permanent speed radar signs on Riverside to help drivers keep their speed in check.

Tom Grimm, who lives on Spring Street, thought traffic might simply go around the block – turn right on Hudson from Elm and then turn right on Spring to get back to Riverside. He noted that Hudson was also a road with heavy traffic and wondered about the possibility of putting stop signs on Riverside at every side street to slow down traffic.

Beryl Bartkus thought it might be worth considering whether Riverside Drive should be made southbound to Spring Street. She also shared a concern from another resident who could not attend the meeting. Stressing that this was not her own opinion, Bartkus said the person who spoke to her thought that Riverside helped relieve some traffic from Main Street and not allowing vehicles to use the road would further back up the Main and Hudson intersection.

Councilmembers ultimately agreed to place a temporary barrier at Elm Street to divert cars off Riverside and see how that affected traffic flow in the area. The barrier will be installed after Riverwalk Festival and left in place until the end of October.

If the results are successful, a permanent change in the road configuration will be made when Riverside Drive is repaved.

The special meeting of Lowell City Council was adjourned at 6:30pm.

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