Endicott Avenue is a pretty tight street under normal circumstances, but when it begins to resemble rush hour traffic on I-93, something’s very wrong.
Something definitely went very wrong in Beachmont last Saturday when the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) ordered the City of Revere and the Town of Winthrop to shut the Winthrop Parkway tidegates despite the two municipalities’ objections – virtually snarling and shutting down Endicott Avenue and other streets in the area for Revere and Winthrop residents.
Mayor Dan Rizzo said he, Fire Chief Gene Doherty and House Speaker Bob DeLeo have scheduled a face-to-face with the DCR to get to the bottom of what happened and if a more cooperative approach can be taken in the future.
Revere officials said it was particularly frustrating because there were no threats of coastal flooding in the area and the high tide wasn’t for several hours when the gates were shut at 11 a.m.
“The decision to close the gate during times of higher than normal storm surge predictions on Winthrop Parkway should be a collaborative one between DCR and the City of Revere,” said Rizzo on Monday. “Currently this is not the case. We enjoy a great working relationship with DCR and I see no reason why we can’t come to a reasonable solution to making future decisions on this storm related closure. While the gate prevents flooding to lower lying areas, it comes with a cost to both commuters and Beachmont residents. Traffic to and from Winthrop is diverted into an already crowded neighborhood. We are of the opinion that far too many times we’ve been forced to close the gate prematurely. We really need a seat at the table in making these decisions.”
Doherty said it was a very frustrating situation. He said that Revere must provide the manpower through its DPW to close the gates, but the decision to close them rests somewhere in the unknown bureaucracy of the DCR.
“That was a debacle and we were not for it and we fought it,” he said. “Both myself and the Winthrop Fire Chief believe we have the experience.”
Meanwhile, on Endicott Avenue Saturday, there were hundreds of cars in a hopeless traffic jam.
In the future, said Winthrop Councilor Craig Mael, the sign telling people of the gate closure should be placed at Elliot Circle so the traffic doesn’t back up and trap people on the road.
A bus full of girls hockey players from Springfield were trapped in the traffic on their school bus – headed to Winthrop for a game.
Fights began to break out.
One resident, Ken Orne, played referee and traffic cop for hours.
“Obviously whoever was responsible either has no idea what impact this is on our neighborhood or they are just that inconsiderate of the potential harm,” said Orne. “I am not just talking about the hundreds of motorists that were bottle necked on our streets for hours at a time, but what if an emergency response was needed. There was no place for anyone to go. I spent hours directing traffic in and out of my driveway and gave gas to one individual who ran out of gas while trying to get to his grandfathers home.”
Orne said he saw a postal truck sideswiped by an angry motorist and several verbal and near physical confrontations between people who had simply had too much.
Endicott Avenue resident Arthur MacDonald said it’s not the first time that the state has ordered the gate shut for no particular reason, but he hopes it will be the last.
“The irrationality on the part of the state and DCR people has made our neighborhood a disaster zone in trying times such as these we have here now,” he said.
Carol Tye, an Endicott Avenue resident and School Committee member, said she was frustrated by the situation, and hopes that Endicott can be temporarily made into a one-way street.
“I do not blame the City for the mess,” she said. “They have been working extraordinarily hard to deal with all the winter problems. I too was caught in the traffic…It took me almost an hour to get from the Beach to my home on Endicott…I have written to the City that at least temporarily in this emergency situation, Endicott should be one-way going from west to east. That seems to be the solution that most of us want.”