HOLYOKE — A petition for speed humps to be put on Laurel Street will head to the City Council for approval following many residents from the street and surrounding neighborhoods voicing their concerns to the Ordinance Committee.

A public hearing was opened at the committee’s April 10 meeting and councilors heard concerns from many living on Laurel Street and in the streets adjacent to and intersecting with.

Alissa Lafond, the resident leading the petition, spoke to the committee about her experiences and listed various incidents she has seen and heard about through the neighborhood community. She said the street is busy and sees constant speeding and accidents often.

“We’ve had two accidents since the petition was filed. One car flipped around and took somebody’s fence out, another car flipped over and landed in front of a house,” Lafond said. “It’s excessive, it’s not safe. There’s a park across the street that’s not really utilized a lot … I think possibly because getting to that park might be a little bit dangerous. There’s a day care on the street that has an area in the back yard for them to play but anybody coming down the street is not paying any attention to any pedestrians or bicyclists or anything happening on the street.”

Lafond continued, explaining she has seen dogs get loose from owners and she’ll hear screeching tires as an accident almost happens. She added that she has heard from a neighbor who rents their property on Laurel Street that it has become more challenging retaining tenants due to their cars being hit while parked on the street.

“We just like to request that the city do something about it to at least try and make an effort to try and slow this traffic down,” Lafond said.

At-Large City Councilor Israel Rivera told Lafond he understands the concerns as he lives a street over on Willow Street. He said he sees the traffic bleed over into his own street and that he supports the petition. He added later in the discussion, traffic calming measures may need to be considered for Willow Street next as some drivers may see an incentive of speeding down that street once humps are installed on Laurel Street.

Many mothers living in the neighborhood also expressed concern for safety due to the traffic and speeding so often occurring on the street, citing feelings of anxiety for their children being in the front yards or riding their bikes down the street.

Another resident, Bill Moriarty, said the traffic on the street has gotten out of control. He has lived in the neighborhood for 34 years and spoke about how its changed over time and how the traffic concerns have become “beyond out of control.”

“They’re hitting houses,” Moriarty said, referring to an accident in 2023 that resulted in a car crashing into a house on Laurel Street. Rivera said he remembers sitting at home and hearing the loud crash when the accident occurred.

The owner of that home, Francisco, spoke later in the hearing and described the frightful accident that thankfully did not lead to any serious injury.

“I remember that morning so vividly and it was so scary. Like you said chairman, it sounded like a bomb going off in my front yard, and thankfully no one else got hurt. Thankfully my tenant who lives upstairs didn’t have their car parked out front because their car would have been hit as well,” he said.

He added that since becoming a homeowner in 2019 he has seen three “bad accidents like that” and that all three of his tenants who have also lived on the property have all had their cars clipped while parked from the traffic. He said with his significant other’s children living in his home he tells them to stay out of the front yard and when walking on the sidewalk stay on the same side as houses, away from the road.

Ward 3 City Councilor David Bartley spoke first following the closing of the hearing and said as the ward representative he was familiar with these concerns on Laurel Street in favor of the petition due to the concerns raised.

“It’s a busy street and we get it, and we want to do something about it,” Bartley said. “I think they work out very well [around the city]. So, I think they’re going to work out pretty good on Laurel, it’s a question of placement and quantity.”

Plans for where the speed humps will go on the street will be figured out by the city engineer’s office if approved by the City Council. He also apologized for the delay in addressing these concerns and was thankful for the efforts behind the petition.

“I don’t think it was anybody’s fault, it was just one of those things,” Bartley said of the delay, as well as the challenges meeting these concerns without a city engineer. “Persistence pays off, you got a hold of me, we refiled it and then here we are, you got it done. That’s the good news, and you got the whole neighborhood riled up. That’s good, that’s positive, I’m not being a wise guy, I think that’s positive.”

Rivera said to those in attendance of the public hearing that Ward 4 City Councilor Kocayne Givner has started a pledge for the community to mitigate speeding concerns. While this is only a good faith campaign to raise community awareness on the issue, Givner has been an advocate for better traffic calming measures across the city and is vocal around listening to resident’s concerns on traffic safety.

“This speaks to the traffic pledge too, I know people think it’s an earthy crunchy thing but understand that the culture that people project onto things, speaks to what is going to happen in reality,” Rivera said. “Trust that we will continue pushing the issue with the traffic squad and pushing the issue with the police. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where the department, specifically for public safety wise can apportion at least two to three officers strictly dedicated to traffic.”

The full public hearing and meeting can be viewed on the Holyoke Media YouTube channel.

tlevakis@thereminder.com | + posts