Find out what’s happening in Summitwith free, real-time updates from Patch.Let’s go! Different towns take different approaches to the flex street movement, Vasquez said. For instance, he said in Somerville and Jersey City, some streets are closed permanently to cars, whereas Westfield and Hoboken have seasonal closures. In Maplewood, downtown streets are closed on an occasional basis, Vasquez said. The consultant made a recommendation for a seasonal closure of Maple Street after surveying residents and visitors, as well as downtown business owners, workers and property owners on Maple Street. Focus groups with Maple Street business owners and property owners were also conducted. Certain concerns that resulted from the focus groups included complaints about “ugly” barricades along Maple Street, difficulty dropping off children, traffic on neighboring streets, litter and noise and a sense that non-restaurant businesses are less visible. On the flip side, some business and property owners said restaurants were able to add more staff and some retails obtained new customers because of the temporary Maple Street closure that was in effect. A traffic impact study and observations of Maple Street activity and the surrounding area were taken into account, as well.
Traffic Impact StudyMaurice Rached, the Division Director of Traffic & Transportation at Colliers Engineering, said this past September he analyzed six major intersections along Union Place and Springfield Avenue. Maple Street was closed at the time for outdoor dining, so he said there was not much to analyze at the intersection of Springfield and Maple. Rached said five of the intersections were operating at an “acceptable level of service.” However, he said the intersection at Union Place and Summit Avenue causes high traffic delays, with the average vehicle waiting for up to almost two minutes. Rached since this intersection has been an ongoing issue for the city, and he suggested that the County could install a traffic signal, which could cut down the wait down to 38 seconds per vehicle. In comparison to other busy streets in Summit, Rached said Maple does not carry a “huge number of cars.” “From a traffic standpoint, if you wanted to close a street, Maple would be the one,” Rached said. “If you redirect the traffic, none of intersections will be overcrowded, except for Union and Summit.” Councilwoman Jaime Levine later argued that a traffic study should have been conducted when Maple Street was open to cars as a means for comparison. Resident Kevin McGoey later agreed with this sentiment. “When you want to understand the impact of [the closure], you would need to study it when the street is closed and when the street is open, and how it impacts the other arteries,” McGoey said. “I don’t understand the value of a traffic study that doesn’t compare the two.” Rached said the study was conducted in September because it is the “worst time” for traffic, especially with school in session. The study was conducted during the morning peak hours from 7 to 9 a.m. and evening peaking hours from 4 to 6 p.m. during the week days. The traffic was also studied on Saturday peak hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Rached said.
Transforming Maple StreetHere are some of the land use recommendations that the consultant provided when Maple Street is car-free:
- Maintaining the pedestrian-area borders that were in place in 2022
- Have small pick-up/drop-off areas at Springfield Avenue and near Union Place
- Replace the jersey barriers and orange cones that have been used to block traffic with more attractive items, such as removable bollards and moveable planters
- Maintain a walkway in the middle of the street to make it easier for pedestrians to pass through