Pleasant Street traffic change in East Providence remains in effect
Those for and against change voice their concerns to council
EAST PROVIDENCE — The continuation of Pleasant Street at Pawtucket Avenue remains a “Do Not Enter” zone for the time being at the very least.
After nearly two-and-a-half hours of often emotionally charged testimony from both supporters and detractors of the move at the Tuesday, May 16, city council meeting, the recent traffic flow change will stay as is pending further review.
The discussion was dominated by a back-and-forth between Ward 1 Councilman Bobby Britto, in whose district the roadway sits, and Deb Cipalone, a city resident and congregant at the First Baptist Church, which is located on Pleasant Street where the alteration was made.
Ms. Cipalone, who resides in the center of the city, questioned the necessity and implementation of the change.
“It closes direct access to not only the homes and driveways of the residents, but also the only access to the driveway of our church,” Ms. Cipalone said.
The move took effect on Monday, May 8. It closed off traffic entering the continuation of Pleasant Street at a fork in the road with Pawtucket Avenue, for years used as a cut-through by motorists seeking a more direct route to Route 152, Newman Avenue. The change came following a constituent meeting Mr. Britto held at city hall on April 19. Ms. Cipalone noted the meeting was only posted on the city’s website just two days prior. There was some mention of it on social media, but not in any other formal media outlet, like a newspaper.
Ms. Cipalone said she and the First Baptist congregation would like to see a “reversal” or a “more suitable situation” happen, such as restricting traffic to residents only or at certains times of day.
Mr. Britto countered, saying the change was “not an overnight decision.” He said experts in the field said those remedies mentioned by Ms. Cipalone don’t really work.
He said he learned the concerns about Pleasant Street traffic have been a “long standing issue” with residents there, saying it became a front burner item for him about a year ago. Since, he has studied the matter, culminating in the resolution he put forth at the May 2 council meeting, which was supported unanimously by those members in attendance.
“It’s not about a popularity decision,” Mr. Britto said, adding, “it becomes a safety issue.”
The exchange between Mr. Britto and Ms. Cipalone became testy at times, with the former saying she was looking at the change out of “convenience” while the latter told the councilman, “I think you’re being unreasonable, sir.”
Mr. Britto said he received both positive and negative responses to his proposal, and that was evidenced by some of the others who commented last week.
Pleasant Street residents, property owners and First Baptist Pastor Ernest Robillard were among those who spoke. Those in support of the change, including one mother, noted how dangerous Pleasant Street had become over the years. She said she feared for the wellbeing of her children and even went as far as parking her car in the street as a means of attempting to slow traffic. Those against, referenced how residents between Pawtucket, Harlem and Miller Avenues were adversely affected by the move. In particular, officials acknowledged one resident had become “land locked” by the adjustment.
East Providence Police Chief Chris Parella, specifically, noted that resident and the plight of those who live on Miller, another small, narrow road which is the next point of access to Pleasant Street off Pawtucket Avenue. He and Mr. Britto said they will be taken under consideration more thoroughly in the future. He did, however, come down on the side of the councilman and residents who claim the matter to be a long term conundrum.
“It has been a problem since I’ve held some sort of significant rank,” Chief Parella explained, referencing his some 25 years with the department.
The chief continued, saying while the change remains in effect, his department plans to increase patrols in the area and use analytics, like traffic counters, as the pattern alteration continues to be reviewed.
“We definitely have some work left to do,” the chief conceded. “We do have issues, but I think we need to let it breathe for a while, wait and see and then maybe look at other alternatives.”