Raymond Fontaine: Trial run prudent for Main Street redesign

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Published: 10/1/2023 6:02:21 PM
Modified: 10/1/2023 6:01:24 PM

As I’ve gotten older the saying, “Be careful what you wish for” has resonated truer. In regards to the proposed changes to Main Street in downtown Northampton I wonder if many of those who enthusiastically support them now will have buyer’s remorse later. After reading about all the wonderful safety and environmental improvements this project will provide, I still wonder about where all the cars and trucks will go. So far none of the proponents have clearly stated any solution that I find convincing. Perhaps I don’t have enough imagination, but the idea that some sort of “smart” traffic signals or traffic flow will compensate for the loss of two traffic lanes during peak traffic conditions doesn’t work for me. The west end of Main Street carries east-west traffic from Routes 9, 10 and 66. Rt. 5 intersects at the east end at King and Pleasant streets, and the interchanges for Rt. 91 are just down the road.

Living in Westhampton, I frequently pass through that portion of Main Street to go east. Having lived in the area for more than 40 years I know the work-arounds though. The primary one is State Street to Summer Street to North Street — narrow streets with lots of pedestrian and bicycle traffic. If traffic on those streets backs up, drivers will probably start using Smith College and the surrounding neighborhood streets as bypasses creating hazards for bicyclist and pedestrians on those streets as well. It’s human nature that drivers will find the paths of least resistance. I’ve noticed a subtle change in traffic flow in the streets around Finn Street since the city recently installed a traffic signal there. I can’t understand the city’s resistance to doing a dry run of the proposed traffic pattern. Several years ago, the previous mayor did so and the results were a disaster. Supposedly the design was improved, but I can’t see it. Considering the cost of the project and the fact that Northampton will have to live with the consequences for a long time once it’s complete, I think a trial run would be prudent.

Raymond Fontaine



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