Silver Lake is a beautiful kettle lake bounded by three roads: Main Street / Route 38, Lake Street, and Grove Avenue. Silver Lake connects sections of Tewksbury and Wilmington, Massachusetts into a delightful neighborhood of modest single family homes with gorgeous views. The lake supports swimming, fishing, and boating, while the streets make a neat circuit for walkers, joggers, and bikers. Several parks around the lake often host families that wish to enjoy a nice view while they play or picnic.
Silver Lake is an active neighborhood hosting many commuters. The two "local" streets, Lake St. and Grove Ave., are very narrow. For most of their lengths there are no sidewalks and there is no shoulder — the lanes are, in spots, barely wide enough for two cars to pass. The road surfaces are uneven, and bends provide poor sight-lines — poorer than a two-dimensional map would lead you to believe.
More than just neighborhood traffic, however, Lake St. and Grove Ave. are also convenient ways to bypass some other traffic chokepoints, for example Shawsheen Ave / Route 129. Peak traffic times, especially 4 pm to 7 pm, see steep upticks in cars passing through.
All of this traffic makes non-vehicle use a bit unpleasant to some, and a bit dangerous to others. Nighttime walking can be especially frightening, without a sidewalk or shoulder to retreat to in the face of oncoming cars.
Silver Lake needs to be a place for people, not just cars.
The neighborhood around Silver Lake grew up prior to World War Two. A long-defunct train station near today's beach made a network of vacation summer cottages around a gorgeous lake possible.
People of the era were more likely to walk than to drive places. Lanes were narrow and meant for pedestrians and horses, not cars and trucks. Houses were placed a reasonable distance from a narrow pedestrian lane.
The nation changed in the post-war era, cars became a fact of life. We needed more room for cars, but the houses couldn't move. The road widened and, with nowhere else to go, pushed closer to the houses. Today there's no room left — there's a two lane road, and the houses practically sit on it. Many houses have just a token front yard, if even that much. Add to that utility poles that line both sides of the street, and now you've got a surface that cannot be any wider.
There are a few things that we could consider to make the roads safer.
Traffic calming is about finding ways to get people to slow down.
"Active" calming includes police enforcement, speed bumps (and humps), and stop signs.
The town cannot afford to have continual traffic enforcement on these roads. Speed bumps and humps are arguably less effective than they seem, and come with disadvantages to people living nearby.
"Passive" designs that encourage drivers to slow down voluntarily by narrowing a road or making it feel narrower by lining the road with hedges and fences, or growing a tree canopy over the roadway.
Lake St. and Grove Ave. are already very narrow, and have many passive elements in place. The last major piece, growing a canopy over the roadway, isn't feasible due to overhead utilities, and would take decades to complete anyway.
A wider roadway would allow us to put in a single-lane sidewalk for the length of both streets. The problem is, there just isn't enough room to do it.
In some sections it may be possible to make a wider road by moving the nearby utility poles over. Moving just one utility pole, however, can cost tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars.
In all of these cases, it becomes necessary to seize people's property by eminent domain. That doesn't feel fair.
There are three features:
Starting at the intersection of Grove Ave and Rt 38, and continuing around the lake until the east end of Burnap (by the lake), there are only four intersections that an "inside" sidewalk would cross, two of them very low-traffic roads. An "outside" sidewalk would need to cross eight (or more) roads. Silver Lake Ave Dexter St Parker Ave Bay State Rd Lake St @ South St or worse yet South St @ Lake St, Radcliff Rd, and Lake St @ Grove Ave Grove Terrace Railroad Terrace Park Ave