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Amherst Town Council to revisit Lincoln Avenue parking restrictions

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Monday, June 20, 2022

AMHERST — Continued complaints from residents on a downtown street about difficulties in exiting their driveways, and congestion caused by those who take advantage of free year-round on-street parking, is prompting the Town Council to revisit possible restrictions on a section of Lincoln Avenue.

Though the Town Council in October failed to put academic year parking limits in place on Lincoln between Amity Street to the south and McClellan Street to the north after deadlocking 6-6, District 3 Councilor Jennifer Taub, one of six new members who joined the council in January, is pushing for some kind of changes.

On June 6, councilors voted 10-2, with At Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke and District 2 Councilor Pat DeAngelis voting against and District 4 Councilor Anika Lopes abstaining, to have the Town Services and Outreach Committee resume studies about what actions to take.

For Taub, who lives on Lincoln (though not the section that would be affected), there is a need to act.

“Between McClellan Street and Amity Street, on the east side of the street, there are no parking restrictions, and it’s actually become a hazardous situation,” Taub said.

She described cars as being parked “bumper to bumper” and sometimes being left around the clock and for days on end. Not only does this make it difficult for other cars passing on the road, but vehicles exiting from narrow driveways on the east side are challenged by vehicles parked right to the curb cut, and sometimes over the curb cut.

Taub said painting lines might be sufficient to remedy the problem, though she is also concerned about idling vehicles in the vicinity.

In addition, the University of Massachusetts is replacing Lincoln Apartments with a new 200-bed graduate complex and a new undergraduate dormitory with 623 beds is being built in a parking lot off Massachusetts Avenue. Those new housing units could make the situation worse.

“This is a unique street because it is a main access route to campus which will have an additional 800 residents, plus their guests,” Taub said.

While she is not proposing a specific change, Taub said the council could start with prohibiting parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays during the school year.

That would be in line with the committee’s earlier recommendation to prohibit parking from Sept. 1 to May 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the east side of Lincoln Avenue from 200 feet north of Amity Street to 60 feet south of McClellan Street, between 60 feet north of McClellan Street and 30 feet south of Fearing Street, and entirely from Fearing Street to North Hadley Road

But Taub said she would be amenable to other changes. She would like a recommendation to be made by Jan. 1, 2023.

Hanneke, though, said Lincoln Avenue has less traffic than when studies were done several years ago, and it is no longer a through street because it is closed at Massachusetts Avenue

“We have heard that UMass may never reopen that end of the street,” Hanneke said.

“The road is actually less traveled now,” Hanneke added.

She also observes that there is already a mechanism in place to enforce vehicles parked too close to or blocking driveways.

DeAngelis said no parking signs are in place and painting lines on the street would fix the problem without further study. “I don’t understand why the town doesn’t put in parking lines on the street,” DeAngelis said.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman, though, said enforcement can only be done when there are signs, not painted lines.

Taub argues that the problem in recent years has not been the commuter traffic, but people who park and then walk or bike from their vehicles.

District 4 Councilor Pamela Rooney said with more people living nearby it is appropriate to see what changes can be made. “I think this is a really good opportunity to think ahead,” Rooney said.

With parking on campus reduced, District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam said the problem is actually about to get worse.

District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne said she worries about the domino effect of less parking, and this will be an opportunity to look at the situation in a holistic way.