Brookline Boards Endorse Car Lane Closures to Give Pedestrians More Space

Foot and bike traffic in Coolidge Corner. Courtesy of the Town of Brookline.
Foot and bike traffic in Coolidge Corner. Courtesy of the Town of Brookline.

Town of Brookline officials have approved a plan to close motor vehicle lanes on four major streets in order to give people adequate space for social distancing while walking to essential jobs and services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under a strategy endorsed by the town’s Select Board Tuesday evening, and approved by the town Transportation Board on Wednesday evening, the town will close on-street parking lanes on both sides of Brookline Avenue from Olmsted Park to the Longwood Medical Area (LMA), on Longwood Avenue from Coolidge Corner to the LMA, and on one side of Harvard Street from Brookline Village to the Boston city line near Packard’s Corner.

The board also endorsed a proposal to close one motor vehicle travel lane on Beacon Street in the vicinity of Coolidge Corner in order to create an additional lane of space for people on foot and riding bikes near Trader Joe’s and a cluster of restaurants that are still open for take-out service.

The on-street parking lane on Brookline's Longwood Avenue, a key connection to the Longwood Medical Area, will be blocked off for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic to give people more space to safely navigate the street's narrow sidewalks. Courtesy of the Town of Brookline.
The on-street parking lane on Brookline’s Longwood Avenue, a key connection to the Longwood Medical Area, will be blocked off for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic to give people more space to safely navigate the street’s narrow sidewalks. Courtesy of the Town of Brookline.

These four streets were targeted for interventions because they connect to essential retail services, like grocery stores and takeout restaurants along Harvard and Beacon Streets, or because they are heavily-trafficked commuting routes to the hospitals of the Longwood Medical Area.

Brookline town staff also offered suggestions for making more room on streets near popular recreational areas, like Pond Street next to Olmsted Park, or to open residential streets as “play streets” by designating them for local traffic only, but the Select Board rejected those concepts Tuesday evening.

“We don’t want to put out the message that people should take advantage of additional opportunities to be out in the street. I’m not saying that people should not go to the grocery store, etcetera, but let’s not give people the message that it’s party time now,” said board chair Bernard Greene Tuesday evening.

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