By Seth Daniel
Crickets are usually reserved as the prime noisemaker at 3 a.m. in the morning, but increasingly on Northampton Street in the South End, the sound has been the crashing and booming of large trucks that use the the street as a shortcut from very early in the morning and all throughout the day.
“I’m not sure why the problem has become so much more of a problem recently,” said Carol Blair of the Chester Square Neighborhood Association, one of three associations in the South End to unite on bringing changes to Northampton. “I’m sure there is more development and things are more congested. There are also a lot of recycled materials businesses on Hamden Street and there are a lot of trucks coming and going from that area. When they come up from there, they have the choice of going up Northampton or taking Mass Ave. They, of course, take Northampton because there is no congestion, one stoplight, an no traffic – but it’s also nearly all residential…The problem is the vast majority of the trucks come by in the early morning before even Logan Airport starts. They are usually empty and they make the loudest noises and the they bang around very loud out there.”
Northampton Street is a bit of a forgotten area as it parallels the much-busier Massachusetts Avenue only one block north. Naturally, that makes it the perfect cut-through for trucks that are looking to avoid part of Mass Avenue on their way to Cambridge, or trucks looking to get away from Melnea Cass Boulevard to get to Columbus Avenue.
The banging and crashing has united three neighborhood groups, including Chester Square, Claremont and Worcester Square Area. As well, the problem has brought on board a very willing Councilor Tito Jackson and some businesses and residents.
Bob Barney, president of Claremont Neighborhood Association, said the groups plan to have a walk-thru of the street in the very near future with Councilor Jackson and all of the stakeholders.
“There are a lot of questions about what they’re doing there,” said Barney. “The first and most important is it’s a residential street zoned for residential uses. What happens is these trucks are using this residential street to cut-through and avoid the light at Mass Avenue. It’s become a truck route and it’s very dangerous, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
One of the key recommendations is to get a sign that designates the street as a non-truck route. Those signs, reading ‘Not a Truck Route’ were promised by City Hall two years ago, but those promises never bore fruit. Another key piece of the puzzle is to create a bike path running the entire stretch of Northampton Street to create an alternative connection for bicyclists to the Southwest Corridor Park and help them avoid a very dangerous Mass Avenue.
Other suggestions include:
•Install traffic lights at Northampton Street and Washington Street, a key crossing point in the shortcut.
•Make the street a priority for paving and new sidewalks in the next round of repairs.
•Perhaps change the flow of the shortcut by making Northampton Street a one-way in the opposite direction from Columbus to Tremont Street – eliminating the long one-way stretch.
•Install South End Historic District markers.
•Change all lighting to the ‘Acorn’ style lights and not the older streetlights.
“This is kind of a forgotten area of the South End and we’d like to bring attention to it and see if we could get these trucks back on Melnea Cass Boulevard instead of having them cruise down a residential street where homes are 20 feet from the curb,” said Blair. “These trucks are meant to go slow, and I don’t think whoever designs them thinks of how loud and disturbing they are when they’re empty and driving fast down a city street.”