By Maureen Schwab
Millbury Street, the heart of Green Island, is getting a much needed make over that some, but not all, are happy about. The improvements made to Crompton Park last fall however, appear to be making everyone, especially the neighborhood children, happy; the new playground has been a huge success!
Construction on the six million dollar streetscape improvement project, managed by The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, (Mass DOT) began in autumn 2010, and is expected to be completed within the next few months. Improvements along Millbury Street include resurfacing and widening of the sidewalks with upgraded material, instillation of street furniture which will include benches, bike racks and waste receptacles. Handicap crossings will be installed on all corners, as well as water elements representing the Blackstone Canal, signage, plantings, trees, decorative street lighting and a bike path. What you will not see is two way traffic.
It’s been over 50 years since Millbury Street was once a two way street. Those were the days before Interstate 290, multiple car households and long commutes to work. Two way traffic probably worked because there simply were less drivers and less competition for parking spaces. Several Millbury St. businessmen have been promoting a two way traffic pattern for several years because they truly feel that it will promote business on a street that is a mix of business and residence. With the current construction underway, it was felt this would be the right time to make the necessary changes to the sidewalks and street. Residents who are strongly opposed are concerned about the potential loss of parking spaces and the safety hazards two way traffic will create.
The City Council Traffic and Parking Committee voted on April 25 to keep the current one way traffic pattern. There are several important reasons for this decision, first and foremost in my mind; the current improvement project includes a five foot wide bike path which would be eliminated if the street were to be made two ways. In addition, the redesign and construction would mean that the city might have to pay back the federal stimulus money it received to do the project in the first place!
The bike path, which is supposed to be part of the Blackstone River way bike trail, was originally supposed to be located on Quinsigamond Ave, Lamartine St , Francis Mc Grath Blvd. and end at Union Station. The current proposed route takes you down Millbury St. right into Kelley Square then to Union Station. I can’t think of anything more frightening than riding a bicycle through Kelley Square; I can barely make it through the traffic in my car most days!
Mass DOT is in the design phase of Gateway 1, an estimated five million dollar projet for the purpose of reconstructing Quinsigamond Ave. from Brosnihan Square to Southbridge St. The reconstruction is intended to improve access to downtown and provide a more aesthetically pleasing travel corridor. Approximately 1 year ago,. Mass Highway and the WRTA were considering moving operations to Quinsigamongd Ave, no information regarding either projet is currently available. Putting the bike path on Quinsigamong Ave, as originally planned is a safer decision which should still be considered. Keeping the streets that surround Crompton Park as environmentally friendly and compatible with the park design are important quality of life issue residents are entitled to.
While business’ struggle on Millbury Street, the new playground at Crompton Park has plenty of customers. It is wonderful to see children play while attentive parents look on. There are still problems with broken bottles and trash all around the park, but I am hopeful that people who use the park will make an effort to keep the park clean so it remains a good and safe place for children play.
I have noticed an increase number of people who walk with their dogs around the park. In a perfect world, Green Island will have a dog park in the near future. Pet ownership can lead to a happier, healthier life, and Green Island has some wonderful places where one can walk with their dog.
Green Island is a neighborhood populated by people who are for the most part poor and transient. It is important that those of us who live here protect our park, and in doing so, our environmental health.