Port Norfolk gets a traffic briefing; more talking next Monday

Pork Norfolk community members were given a briefing on the traffic impacts of a proposed wharf project last week, with an engineer detailing minimal to moderate disruption to already jammed roadways.

The Neponset Wharf project, proposed by South Boston-based City Point Capital, would be a 240,800-square foot development project of residential and recreational space for the 156,816-square foot site off Ericsson Street. Down from prior unit counts, the design now includes 96 condominiums, 170 parking spaces, a small neighborhood market and deli, and renovated boat storage and service facilities.

Last week’s session, which drew about 20 people to the Port Norfolk Yacht Club, was a review of traffic patterns around the site. The numbers remained unchanged from an earlier forum, but it was an opportunity for engineering consultant David Black to walk residents through their methodology.

“We a little bit overestimated the traffic,” Black explained. When VHB Transportation, the traffic consultant’s firm, assessed the situation, the unit count was 115 and included a hotel and restaurant as part of the plan. Since the initial proposal for 170 units and 6,500 square feet of retail, restaurant, and supported use space, “Traffic / Vehicle Trip Generation has been reduced by almost 40 percent in the morning peak hour and over 50 percent in the evening peak hour,” according to filings.

The same number of parking spots will be allotted for the reduced number of units.

VHB took measurements of vehicular patterns over two week-long periods – Sat. April 29, 2017, to Fri. May 5, 2017; and Sat. June 17, 2017, to Fri. June 23, 2017 – with automatic traffic counters at two “gateway roadways serving Port Norfolk” – Conley Street/Tenean Street, just north of the DCR Driveway for Tenean Beach; and Redfield Street, at the bridge over the railroad tracks.

This helped the consultant identify the peak traffic periods of vehicles entering and exiting the small peninsula. As it stands, some 1,700 vehicle trips come both in and out of the Port each day, with a moderate spike in June related to summer activity.

As the new proposal is almost entirely residential, “we expect people to have similar traffic patterns to people who already live in Port Norfolk,” Black said.

Another vehicle count program involved 24-hour daily counts on Port Norfolk, Walnut, and Lawley streets, and vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian counts at study intersections during the peak traffic periods.

About 60 percent of traffic comes into Port Norfolk by Redfield Street and about 40 percent use Conley Street/Tenean Street, while those leaving the neighborhood split evenly between the two. The busiest times of the day are between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. on weekdays, which consistently saw heavier traffic, topping out on Fridays.

On a Friday, the report found, Lawley Street carries 760 vehicle trips (total two-way), Port Norfolk Street carries 394 vehicle trips (one-way northbound), and Walnut Street carries 1,092 vehicle trips (total two-way).

New vehicle trips, 652 total additional each day, could add up to 60 new trips during peak morning and evening commute hours, or roughly a car a minute. Maximum, Black said, “the project could end up putting 30 cars on a street in Port Norfolk [during a peak hour],” he said. A resident asked where, to which he answered, “probably on Lawley, and it would be about 30 cars.”

The impact these trips would have on access intersections ranges from minimal to moderate, Black said, with delays at the Morrissey Boulevard and Walnut Street intersection projected to increase enough to change the Level of Service (LOS) grade from an E to an F. Redfield should stay the same at an A and Morrissey Boulevard at Tenean Street would remain a D, although the Morrissey intersection at Conley Street would drop from C to D.

A grade of D is typically considered acceptable in a downtown, urban environment while an E o an F involves significant or extremely long delays for the average driver.

Black said the developers are open to trip-mitigation efforts like rearranging parking patterns on the streets, working on a shuttle service from the main parking lots, and paying for traffic-calming measures like increased signage if the neighborhood wants them.

An Impact Advisory Group gathering is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Mon., June 25, at the Port Norfolk Yacht Club to discuss the transportation meeting. Immediately following it, at 7 p.m., will be a BPDA meeting focused on environmental considerations.