Mason Street to remain two-way
Posted July 15-Some compromises were required when it came time to squeeze a new sidewalk into the relatively tight Mason Street corridor, but a majority of the Bethel selectmen have indicated there is one thing they are not willing to compromise on, at least not yet – the street's two-way traffic.
An item on the agenda for their meeting Monday read: “Discuss possibility of one-way designation for Mason Street.”
Selectman Dennis Doyon's response was immediate and unequivocal: “No, why?”
The item had been placed on the agenda at the request of Board Chairman Stan Howe, who replied: “There are options you have to look at.”
But Howe was the only selectman inclined to take that view.
Doyon, the board's vice-chairman, argued that trade-offs (most notably lost parking spaces) were inevitable once the board voted to approve the sidewalk, and now everyone had to live with them.
“You can't have everything,” he said, directing his remarks toward Howe, “and the two-way traffic is much more important.”
He also suggested Howe, the long-time executive director of the Bethel Historical Society, and currently its associate director, had personal reasons for raising the issue – the three parking spaces that had been lost along the Mason Street side of the Moses Mason House.
“The two or three spaces you had next to the Moses Mason House are gone,” Doyon told Howe, “and you can't affect everybody on the entire street, saying: 'Let's now turn it one-way, so that we can have our three parking spaces back.'
“You knew when you voted for the sidewalk that that was going to infringe on your parking. You can't have it all, you have it one way of the other.”
Howe repeatedly denied he was advocating for a particular outcome. “I just want to be sure we understand what the implications are for the street,” he said.
In addition to its residential traffic, Mason Street is used by school buses going to and from Crescent Park School, and Doyon said Ron Deegan, director of transportation for SAD44, was strongly opposed to a switch to one-way.
Deegan, Doyon said, “said if that discussion ever came up, he would very much like to be informed of it, because for the buses and so forth it would be very difficult on a one-way street.”
The two other selectmen at Monday's meeting (Don Bennett did not attend) argued that it was premature to begin a discussion of one-way traffic.
“Let's stand back and watch it and see what happens,” said Bob Everett.
Jack Cross said: “I think we ought to try it the way it is, and if it doesn't work we can go to Stan's way.”
Audience member Don Bennett (the Bethel Citizen columnist, not the selectman) offered a light-hearted suggestion on how to make up for the lost spaces by the Moses Mason House.
“You can always get a shuttle bus and have them park down by the Casablanca,” he told Howe.
Doyon liked that idea, and offered his own wrinkle, telling Howe: “For historic reasons you ought to get a horse-drawn carriage and shuttle them up in that.”
(Note: One-way traffic is imposed on Mason Street during certain busy village events, including this weekend's Mollyockett Days. Traffic will flow from Broad Street, and the common, toward Chapman Street.)