2019-01-10 / Around Town

Traffic Study for Salve Dorms Requested

By James Merolla

The Planning Board tentatively gave its recommendation on Jan. 7 to approve two Salve Regina dormitory plans to the Zoning Board and the city’s new Technical Review Committee, with the contingency that the university pay for a comprehensive traffic study to determine the impact the dorms will have on the already congested traffic patterns on and around campus.

“Such a study is going to inform what kinds of needs exist, what street signage is going to work. Do we need a sidewalk here, really? Will it meet historic preservation requirements? There are a lot of questions,” Planning Board Chair Melissa Pattavina said.

She recommended to the Zoning Board that the study should measure traffic density, speed, street signage, sidewalk placement and other considerations in order to “allow safe passage throughout the neighborhoods.”

The measure passed unanimously.

“If a traffic study is completed, we understand what the real impact of this is going in,” said Pattavina. “We can determine what is the solution and work together to solve it.”

The board expressed concerns about traffic speed and volume that would likely be exacerbated by 400 students being placed into two new dorms in another section of campus. Pattavina said she was not convinced that overall traffic would be reduced.

Attorney Karen Benson, representing several opposed abutters, provided the board with an unofficial traffic study done last summer.

“The problem persists,” she said. “I am not trying to blow things out of proportion. I am suggesting that more data is needed. There is inadequate data that needs to be collected in order for this decision to be made. Unless we have those answers, it’s a lot of ‘What ifs?’ And a lot of dangerous ‘What ifs?’”

Speed humps, she added, were not embraced by the city as a solution in 2016 to slow down traffic.

“The problem will be exacerbated in the summer when we do have the summer residents and the students,” said Judy Cutler of Bellevue Avenue, who opposes the plan.

She said she asked Salve for traffic studies, but was told by the university that funds were not available.

“At the end of the day, we are talking about something being done to public streets,” said attorney Frank Landry, who represents the university. “We have been working on this, to the extent that we can. It’s not this project that is causing the problem. It’s other things. It’s been going on before this project was proposed.”

Landry argued that the plan would improve traffic flow on campus, as did the architects who designed it. He said that Salve was working constantly on traffic evaluations.

The board also voted unanimously that the design of the dorms was in compliance with the city’s Comprehensive Land Use plan, but said their approval did not reflect approval of “a merger or sub-division, and should not amend public access or right-of-way.”

“I think that Salve has a significant development going on, [but] a lot of their traffic study is based on parking studies,” said Pattavina. “But there is missing data. The city has data on actual traffic movement. Benson has collected good traffic data. We simply need more.”

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