After nearly two years of experimenting with various traffic patterns in the town center, selectmen this week abandoned parallel parking around the Common while backing permanent “splitter islands” at the Central/South Street and Cocasset/Mechanic Street approaches.
This marks a begrudging retreat from the temporary parallel parking configuration which board members said had slowed traffic speeds, but which ultimately proved unpopular with townspeople.
“Whether you liked parallel parking or not, it slowed down traffic quite a lot,” said Selectman Mark Elfman, who lives on Main Street, just off the rotary.
The final configuration adopted Tuesday night will restore angled parking spaces around the Common, while still allowing for a five-foot pedestrian walkway just outside the iconic wrought-iron fence. Travel lanes will be widened slightly as a result.
In final form, the splitter islands currently delineated by rubber curbing and traffic barrels will be replaced with rumble strips, roughened concrete or red-brick pavers, and pavement markings to funnel traffic into appropriate lanes without raised obstructions, smoothing turning radius issues for large vehicles and making snow removal easier during winter months.
Public works Director Chris Gallagher told selectmen that a similar design would be installed at the Cocasset/Mechanic Street approach.
“This trial was a great experience from an engineering perspective,” Gallagher said. “It was good to see that [parallel parking] does work.”
However, Gallagher admitted that opposition to parallel parking seemed to be hurting, rather than helping, efforts to improve the business climate in the town center
“When the Common is busy they’re just going to drive down the street and potentially not visit the businesses,” he said.
Town Engineer Lance DelPriore said online and in-person surveys conducted in June found little appetite for the parallel parking option, but a majority of respondents supported the temporary lane changes, saying they had improved the way motorists navigate the rotary.
“Overall, it wasn’t a very positive response to feedback for the parallel parking situation,” DelPriore told selectmen. “We still think parallel parking is a viable option, but perhaps not at this time.”
In addition, DelPriore said that after monitoring speeds of vehicles entering the rotary from Main Street on multiple dates in June, Foxboro police determined that virtually all motorists were traveling 26 mph or under.
The rotary is posted at 20 mph, but police typically allow for 5-6 mph above the speed limit.
Because existing striping on the road surface has been painted over repeatedly during the various trials, Gallagher said that a surface treatment will be applied before laying down permanent traffic markings.
Without committing to a completion date, Gallagher said he hoped to have work finished in time for the start of school in September.