Driving down Gardner Street - the short road that leads from the Civil War monument on Main Street to Liberty Street - can often lead to anxiety, road rage, and some broken side mirrors.
The street - a key route into the downtown core district - is narrow in several places, leading drivers to navigate onto the sidewalks, creating some near misses, and generating traffic backups.
In response to what he calls a “dangerous traffic situation,” One Gardner Street resident has petitioned the town to make the road one-way going south toward the Civil War monument.
“It’s a safety issue and one where the sidewalks are getting destroyed,” said Jeremy Bloomer. “In the last five years, I don’t know the exact number, but the amount of traffic at peak times, seasonal times, has more than doubled. It’s extraordinary.”
Bloomer took his case to the town’s Traffic Safety Work Group on Thursday - the first place such citizen petitions dealing with traffic issues go to be vetted.
“Everyone on Gardner Street has had dangerous near misses as pedestrians so safety is a leading reason to change,” Bloomer wrote in an email to the group ahead of Thursday’s meeting. “The sidewalks also are de facto used as the road and are being destroyed. This situation if allowed to continue additionally opens the town up to liability in the event of an accident.”
The members of the workgroup, however, were unconvinced.
“Changing it to one-way will increase traffic congestion in other areas when motorists have to seek alternate routes, as well as increase the speed in that corridor due to the wider travel lane,” workgroup chair Arthur Gasbarro said. “The conflicts and vehicles when they’re coming through that narrow corridor are not ideal, but it does have the other effect of slowing the traffic flow…I appreciate the fact you brought this forward and we all recognize it as a challenging situation, but I think it's one of those situations where it's a historical town, and not everything can just be changed, if you will.”
While the workgroup and Bloomer agreed that the narrow street often caused vehicles to drive on the sidewalk and was less than ideal, the town’s transportation planner, Mike Burns, showed data from the Nantucket Police Department that indicated there had been only three minor car accidents reported on Gardner Street over the past five years.
Burns said he had previously floated the possibility of making Gardner Street one-way headed north toward India Street around 2017, but the concept was never recommended and thus never tested.
“When you’re solving one problem you can be creating others,” said Erika Mooney, the town staff liaison to the workgroup, of Bloomer’s request.
But Bloomer pushed back on the criticisms of his proposal.
“Someone commuting to mid-island or going through mid-island to get to a construction site on the Cliff - if they went an alternative route, would it add one minute or two minutes to their route?” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets clipped on these sidewalks. I do appreciate there may be backups, but we already see extraordinary backups around the Civil War monument already, especially in the summer.”
Burns made a motion to make Gardner Street one-way on a temporary, trial basis, but the motion died for lack of a second.
The work group told Bloomer his only recourse at this point was to bring his petition directly to the Select Board for consideration, which he indicated he may do.
The Current launched a poll on our Instagram page asking whether Gardner Street should be converted to a one-way street. Here are the results so far: