Let’s have a little chat. Let’s have a little chat about how in the world did we end up having a High Street Master Plan, and what about those wretched (for some) bike lanes.
To go back to the beginning, sort of. In January of 1995, the city of Newburyport, MA asked and then received a grant from the Massachusetts Highway Department to fix High Street. The original grant (all of this can be found on the High Street website under “Reference Documents.”) acknowledged that it would adhere to Federal and State “design requirements.”
What the “design requirements” ended up being (all of this being presented to the City of Newburyport, 3 years later, in 1998, on 52 detailed pages) was the removal of 77 trees, 3 traffic lights (one at Three Roads, one at the High School and a new one at High and State Street), and a whole lot of other things that people weren’t too crazy about.
The new stop light at High and State Street required that the street be widened and a number of feet be taken by right (I believe) from the Mobile Station at the corner of State and High, all the way down to somewhere around Fruit Street or lower. And a retaining wall to be put up, to hold up that part of the “Ridge.”
It took about a year to get people’s attention, about what was about to happen to High Street, and the residences, once they got the message, pretty much went berserk, and MassHighway finally backed down in the fall of 1999.
Long, long story, but the long and short of it, was that the residence wanted the street to be historically restored, and also wanted traffic to be slowed down without stoplights.
Years of research and public hearings later, a (beautiful, in my mind) High Street Master Plan was created in 2004. And to “calm” traffic (or make it go slower) one of the elements were the bike lanes.
And, it is my belief, that before the bike lanes went down, and there was just a yellow strip down the middle, with wide open spaces on either side, it was real easy to go down High Street at 50 miles an hour, and that was not uncommon.
It’s hard to go more than 40 miles an hour now, and often the speed is more like 30 miles an hour, which, except for around the schools, would be the speed limit.
So the bike lanes do appear to “calm” or slow down traffic. And they also do other things, like get people out of their cars to walk and bike. And it appears, at this point, that we would like a walkable and bikable community.