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Easy driving on Kelton Street? Don't bank on it

Posted by Matt Byrne  February 14, 2011 06:04 PM

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Matt Byrne

David Gearin, 22, driving, and his girlfriend Mimi Zafirova, 24, both of Allston, looked for a parking spot near a derelict toilet that has emerged from a snow bank on the corner of Bellavista Street and Woodstock Avenue. Gearin said another driver clipped his front bumper last week after parking overnight on Kelton Street.

During peak hours on a stretch of Kelton Street in Allston, the traffic scene can recall a crammed New Delhi marketplace more than the crop of brick residential three and four-story buildings that stand there.

Thanks to some encroaching snow banks, the driving and parking conditions are a crap-shoot of sorts, and change with resident's parking habits and skill.

Between Allston Street and the Brookline border, a single car jutting too far into the already slim roadway can prompt a queue of drivers a half-dozen deep to pile up in both directions, each waiting for their chance to squeeze through the inevitable bottleneck and slalom the three-block drag.

"There have been traffic jams that last 15 to 20 minutes because no one wants to decide who can go first, or who can fit," said Noah Gleason, a repairman for a building on Kelton Street that overlooks the problem spot.

Steps from the Allston-Brookline border, the area can be a vexing place to park even in fair weather, but the block has evolved into a muck-crusted crucible of sorts for drivers, whose will -- and spatial awareness -- is continually tested by the tightening roadway.

Gleason, who began work at the Allston location in October, said his introduction to the neighborhood has been a "baptism by blizzard." And from his ground-level office he has a front row seat to the fiasco.

"These people pay for resident parking and then they have no place to put their car because the snow banks are four feet from the curb," said Gleason, 25.

(For the record, parking stickers are free, but the city requires residents to pay outstanding tickets and fees.)

Drivers feel the literal pinch as well, as the area has become a graveyard of vehicle body parts: Chunks of side mirrors and shards of plastic tail lights litter the gutter, which already runs rancid with blackened water/

On a recent Sunday evening, eight cars parked on the block evidenced mutilated mirrors; yesterday four cars had broken or missing  left-hand mirrors.

And that isn't the only detritus strewn in the blackening banks.

Nearby on Bellavista Road, a discarded toilet has begun to emerge whole from a graying snow pile. Elsewhere, trash, plastic gloves, losing lottery tickets, and an immeasurable quantity of dog waste jut from the melting snow.

"I've seen Christmas trees in there, it's crazy," said Nick McCormack, who moved to Boston four days ago from Palm Beach, Fla. 

Walking along Kelton Street, McCormack recounted his shock at residents' snow woes.

"I saw a pizza delivery driver have to climb over a  huge snow bank, it was pretty funny," said McCormack, 24. "I've seen it a couple times, but not like this, how the cars can't park."

But not everyone was so amused.

"Allston-Brighton is the worst," said Justin, a 29-year-old UPS driver who navigates the narrow and hilly side streets for a living. He did not give his last  name because corporate policy prohibits employees from speaking to the media.

 "People leave their cars sticking out," he said. "We have to back out roads sometimes."

As a designated snow emergency route, Kelton Street  is cleared of parked cars during storms, which in theory allows city plows to scrape all the way to the curb.

Joanne Massaro, Commissioner of Public Works for Boston, said in a phone interview that city crews concluded most snow removal efforts Friday, with workers in Allston shoveling through Saturday because of scheduling constraints, she said.

More than 10,000 tons of snow  was removed from the neighborhood alone; City-wide, workers carted more than 138,000 tons, she said.

"Unfortunately we cannot get everything," said Massaro, who added that residents with parking woes should attempt to excavate some of the banks over the coming days as temperatures are expected to rise.

"There are a lot of narrow streets in the city. We're hoping that with the warm weather people could chip away at it themselves," she said.

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