Thursday, October 4, 2007

Getting Florence/Heath unbackwards

What if, regarding Heath and Florence Streets, Chestnut Hill Square is not the problem, but a potential solution?

A staggering 95% of current (2004) weekday peak hour Florence/Heath eastbound traffic is cut-through traffic. In New England Development's Final Environmental Impact Report, the traffic study for the weekday evening peak hour traffic show that 474 cars enter Florence from Route 9 Boylston. (Appendix D, figure 5.) All but 25 continue on to Heath and Hammond Pond Parkway. Westbound, about half the 171 cars that enter Heath at Hammond Pond continue on to Route 9 Boylston.

New England Development's projected eastbound figures for 2010 post-build are 513/14, or over 97%. (Appendix D, figure 21.) Westbound about 80% of the 151 cars that start at Heath and Hammond Pond Parkway will be cut through.

No wonder Brookline wants to close Heath Street. If you could get rid of 513 cars an hour while only inconveniencing a handful, wouldn't you do it? (The key is that everyone agrees those 513 cars really ought to be on Route 9 Boylston and Hammond Pond Parkway.)

What's really mind-blowing, though, is a comparison of the projected cut-through traffic along Heath/Florence and total projected traffic in and out of Chestnut Hill Square. According to the FEIR, during peak weekday hours, the site will generate 1349 trips, in and out.

Imagine reconfiguring Florence Street such that it was no longer an attractive cut-through and it provided an entrance into Chestnut Hill Square. Florence and Heath would have to absorb more than a third of the Chestnut Hill Square traffic to equal the existing cut-through traffic. Trade the cut-through traffic for a Chestnut Hill Square entrance and you'd also end up with a Chestnut Hill Square that is much better integrated into the neighborhood.

In part, this is what Brookline is proposing by blocking Heath Street. There will be no more cut-through traffic. And, most likely, Chestnut Hill Square will have to create access through the site for traffic from Florence. The solution is incomplete because it does not provide access to Chestnut Hill Square from east along Florence. And, it cuts off access to the Newton side of the neighborhood from Brookline and vice versa.

A more complete solution is possible. The Chestnut Hill Square frontage along Florence Street is long and the Chestnut Hill Square site is a completely open canvas. There are few limitations.

Imagine rerouting Florence Street north into Chestnut Hill Square. (It would probably require moving some or all of the residences onto the south side of the new Florence and figuring out a way to get into the existing homes along Florence. Details.) Make the route through Chestnut Hill Square circuitous or otherwise an unfit cut-through.

Maybe a roundabout at a Florence Street entrance to Chestnut Hill Square would discourage cut-through traffic.

There has to be a better option than living with cut-through traffic or creating a dead end.

Previously: Florence Street kink

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