Heatherstone Redesign with Mini-roundabouts Praised by Some Residents


Mini-roundabouts such as this one have been proposed as part of the Heatherstone Road redesign. Photo: National Association of City Transportation Officials / amherstma.gov

Report on the Listening Session of the Town Services and Outreach Committee, May 13, 2024

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded

Andy Steinberg (Chair, at-large), George Ryan (District 3), Jennifer Taub (District 4), Bob Hegner (District 5). Absent: Hala Lord (District 3). Also: District 2 councilors Pat DeAngelis and Lynn Griesemer. 

Staff: Guilford Mooring (Superintendent of Public Works) and Athena O’Keeffe (Clerk of the Council)

Heatherstone Road in Echo Hill is scheduled to be repaved this summer. With the repaving, the DPW plans to remove the median near the north end of the street near Pelham Road, add a minimum width sidewalk to the east side of that section of the road, and add “two or three mini-roundabouts” as traffic calming measures. The area involved runs from Pelham Road to the closest intersection of Heatherstone and Aubinwood. The work will hopefully be completed by October or November. 

Town Services and Outreach (TSO) Chair Andy Steinberg said that in addition to this listening session the committee will obtain input from the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and Disability Access Advisory Committee (DAAC). The plan will be discussed at the May 16 TSO meeting, but the recommendation on the design to the full Town Council will probably be made at the May 30 meeting, after hearing from TAC and DAAC. He also plans to bring representatives from the police department and Department of Public Works (DPW) to that meeting to discuss whether lowering the speed limit on the street is “possible.”

Overall, residents at the session said they were happy with the proposed design. All agreed that repaving is sorely needed, but several worried that the changes to the road with removal of the median would result in cars speeding on a road currently enjoyed extensively by both pedestrians and bicyclists. DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring explained that the town will assess whether mini-roundabouts work as traffic calming measures. Each mini-roundabout would have a  four- to five-foot diameter, with low asphalt curbs. Buses and trucks will be able to maneuver around them, and all vehicles would have to slow down to avoid the curbs. Their effectiveness will be assessed before, shortly after, and maybe six months after completion when drivers have had time to get used to them and might drive faster. If they are not effective, he said, they can be removed. He stated that roundabouts are more effective than three-way stops that are frequently ignored, citing  the intersection of Wildflower and Larkspur in Amherst Woods.

Walt Kohler asked whether the mini-roundabouts would involve any taking of property, and Shoshana King asked if any trees would be removed in the redesign. Mooring replied that construction of the roundabouts will only require about two feet of one property and that no large trees will be removed, only some small ones on the east side of the street. 

Several residents complained that cars from the non-owner-occupied rental duplex at the corner of Pelham and Heatherstone park on the street and narrow the travel lane. Mooring advised them that this is a matter for Inspection Services. He said that the property is required to have a parking plan, and neighbors can file nuisance complaints if it is not being followed. 

The most common advice from residents was to reduce the speed limit on Heatherstone from 30 mph to 25. Mooring was not sure of the steps for allowing this reduction, but Steinberg informed them that this matter will be discussed with representatives of the police department at the May 30 TSO meeting. 

Several Echo Hill North residents asked about extending the repaving and sidewalks the full length of Heatherstone. Jeff Blaustein said that the section of the road between Aubinwood and Stony Hill Road is in worse repair than the other section and claimed that it is dangerous for pedestrians. Mooring said there is not enough money to do the additional work, but that area will be addressed in future years. He also said the bid for the initial work has already been accepted and work has already begun.

Toni Cunningham of North Amherst asked how roads and sidewalks projects are chosen, and pointed out that residents near East Pleasant Street have been advocating for a sidewalk on that busy street for over a decade. Mooring replied that constructing a sidewalk on East Pleasant Street is “a much more complex project” than Heatherstone, and that several DPW staff members have been working on it for months.

Map of proposed sidewalks and crosswalks for Heatherstone Road redesign. Photo: amherstma.goc
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