MWRA owes Lower Mills answers – pronto

Merchants who do business in Lower Mills are very concerned about an expected disruption in their businesses later this year as the MWRA water pipe project begins tearing up the streets in the village.

The business people are correct to raise alarms, as the disruptions are sure to be a bother for merchants and residents alike. Neighbors recall the inconvenience last summer when Adams Street in Milton was closed off for months due to the construction in that town. Now, the project will emerge down Adams Street and across the Roper Bridge over the Neponset, and continue up Washington Street . Under plans revealed to the Reporter this week, the work will necessitate closing off streets for long periods during this year.

When the members of the Lower Mills Merchants Association (LMMA) gathered for their monthly meeting last week, they had expected to hear first from the MWRA. They were disappointed to learn the agency had postponed its commitment with a promise to return late this month.

Even before this week’s details were made public, the merchants agreed that some questions needed to be asked of the MWRA, Lynda Watson of LMMA prepared a list of concerns, and the merchants group began circulating them this week. Here in Watson’s words is a synopsis of the association’s concerns:
General questions: What is the exact time line for the work?

What will be the hours of operation?  7 a.m. to 4 p.m.? 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.? Where will equipment be located after hours?

 Parking: What parking will be eliminated? Will there be designated parking for the construction workers? Off-site? Shuttle? Will there be alternative parking for customers?

 Police Detail (local, state?): How many details will be present? Where will they be placed?

 Traffic: Will sections of the street be completely closed? Hours? Any partial closures? Which direction? Where will traffic be directed? Will bus stops/routes be relocated (i.e. BatBus)? Delivery route (for merchant deliveries)?

 Sidewalks: Which sidewalks will be dug up? Where? How long? Will there be ramps placed in front of businesses for access or will sidewalks be closed completely? Will sidewalks on Washington Street be replaced with bricks?

 Signage: What signs will be posted? Where? Will specific businesses be listed?

 Remediation: Is there any possibility of compensation for loss of business during the project? Can we get street furniture (i.e. benches), public bathroom, plantings, permanent signage?

The questions are real concerns, as the work this spring and summer poses a real threat to the economic stability of the Lower Mills business district.

At the same time, neighbors in the area will likely see increased traffic activity on residential streets as pass-through traffic seeks alternate routes. There are large questions. For example, about access to the Shaw’s market on River Street, as it appears that the intersection of River and Washington streets will be shut down for lengthy periods of time.

In nearby Neponset, the state Department of Transportation has received kudos for a well-designed traffic management scheme that has kept traffic moving through Neponset Circle while the bridge to Quincy is being rebuilt. That plan, which relies upon a heavy presence of state troopers keeping a watchful eye on motorists, seems to have worked quite well.

Let’s hope the MWRA will learn from the Neponset experience and treat the Lower Mills project with the same sensitivity to the neighborhood’s concerns.
– Ed Forry