More Main St. Traffic Changes Weighed in Fitchburg

September 7, 2018

Fitchburg is working on plans to convert Main Street and Boulder Drive into two-way roadways to create a "ease of circulation" for vehicles, said Tom Skwierawski, executive director of community development. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE FILE PHOTO Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- More changes may be coming to the downtown traffic flow as early as this spring.

“People want a plan on Main Street that gives us something that’s significantly better than what we have today,” said Tom Skwierawski, executive director of community development.

The City Council voted in May to revert Main Street from one lane back to two, while “aggressively” pursuing plans for a two-way Main Street.

But before addressing Main Street, the city is working on securing grant funding to convert Boulder Drive into a two-way roadway, Skwierawski said.

He said 40 percent of traffic on Main Street today is through traffic. Making Boulder Drive two-way before doing the same on Main Street would prevent westbound traffic from backing up, he said.

The Boulder Drive conversion is the first step in a process of making downtown roadways more easily traveled by motorists, according to Skwierawski.

“You’re creating more ease of circulation,” he said, using the example of Strong Style Coffee to make the point that a motorist who misses her stop for coffee at the new Boulder Drive cafe must take a round-about route back to the shop, instead of pulling over and driving back the other way.

Last month, the city applied for a $3.9 million MassWorks grant to convert Boulder Drive to two lanes, he said. Officials will learn this fall whether or not the city received the grant.

Plans for Boulder Drive could be “scaled down” if the city receives a grant award totaling less than the requested amount, he said.

Skwierawski hopes the funds will come through, but noted the project is competing for a “scarce pool of resources.”

The Boulder Drive project would not require crews widen the road, he said. Sewer and drainage work would be done at the same time to take advantage of the road being opened.

The road would also be milled then covered with a layer of asphalt.

If the city receives the grants funds, the project would go to bid and construction could get underway as early as this spring, he said.

Forums to solicit input from residents and business owners will take place before further action is taken on a two-way Main Street, said Skwierawski.

″(Main Street) is the heart of our downtown,” he said.

The Community Development Office will make public the findings of a study that examined the potential impact of a two-way Boulder Drive and Main Street at a meeting of the City Council next month, he said.

Having two-way roadways for both streets and changing the downtown traffic flow to accommodate more cars would be good for local businesses, according to Skwierawski.

“It potentially creates more vehicle volume in each of these streets which is really critical for commercial success,” he said.

A two-way road would also make the Main Street stretch more pedestrian friendly “as opposed to feeling as if it’s a through way highway,” said Skwierawski.

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