FITCHBURG -- Less than two years after the controversial re-configuring of Main Street to one lane of traffic, work is now underway to convert the street back to having two lanes.
Reconfiguration of the street, including repainting traffic lines and parking spaces, began over the weekend and was nearing completion by Wednesday morning.
At-large City Councilor Marcus DiNatale, who voted in favor of the change back to two lanes during a May council meeting, said he expects all of the work to be completed in the next two weeks and that Oliver and Putnam streets, which had been limited to one-way traffic as part of the Main Street conversion, will once again handle two-way traffic.
“The whole intention of the one-lane was to be a pilot program,” he said. “I’ve gotten way more constituent calls from people that didn’t like the change.”
The road was converted to one lane of traffic in September 2016 in an effort to make the downtown area safer for pedestrians, according to Ward 3 City Councilor Joel Kaddy, who said he was “disappointed” with the council’s vote to change it back.
“Now we’re back to a road that primarily is used by cars and not pedestrians, and I think it’s very, very unsafe,” he said.
Though he was the original petitioner of the one-way Main Street concept, Kaddy had been unable to attend the May council meeting where the vote to reinstate a second lane was held. At the time, he asked councilors to postpone the decision until he was back from vacation, but his request was denied.
“Of all my years as a councilor, it was only the third meeting I had ever missed,” he said. “They voted my one-lane Main down without giving me a chance to speak.”
As DiNatale explained, bringing back two lanes will “force the city’s hand” in changing Main Street even further, allowing traffic to flow in both directions for the first time in decades.
“I felt that if we kept it the way it was, the city would never pursue what, I think, most agree is the real solution to our traffic woes,” he said.
Though unable to provide an exact estimate for how much it would cost to allow traffic to travel in both directions, DiNatale said it was estimated by the city to be about $5 million several years ago. He added that the city is already looking to secure grant funding from the state to pay for the work.
“We would rely extremely, if not entirely on it to make this work,” he said.
Kaddy said he was opposed to letting traffic move in both directions.
“It’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to revert it back to two ways. And even if we did that, who’s to say it would be successful and wouldn’t cause more congestion,” he said.
Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53