The $700,000 Traffic Light

Seven Hundred Thousand Dollars

Last October 18, one day after the public hearing where residents were prevented from asking about the cost of the Lake Street signal project, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine shared the current estimate with’s Bob Sprague.

The project, which would place a traffic signal where the Minuteman path crosses lake Street, would cost around $700,000, many times its original cost estimate of $150,000.

That’s a lot for a single traffic light, even accounting for the tie-in with the nearby signal at Brooks Ave. and landscaping on the path.

So in this post, I’d like to explore some issues around the sometimes-forbidden topics of cost and financing for this project, as best as I understand them.
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Arlington, Lake St. light, miss out on State funding this year

The plan to speed traffic on Lake St. by signalizing the Minuteman Path hit a speed bump this week when MassDOT declined to fund it this year.

traffic signal

Also losing out were a raft of smaller projects to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders that were not submitted to MassDOT in order to make room for the Lake St. proposal. Read more »

Hidden winners and losers in the Lake Street signal plan

Some who live on or near the rush-hour-congested Lake St. corridor look to the proposed signal at the Minuteman Path for some traffic relief.

Unfortunately, the opposite result seems likely: heavier traffic, and more cut-throughs.

Cyclists stopped at red 

Welcome to the topsy-turvy, counter-intuitive world of traffic engineering. Perhaps orbital mechanics, where astronauts speed up in order to slow down, is as confounding to common sense.

Below is my list of likely winners and losers under this plan, which has its last public hearing next Tuesday.
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Oct 17 Is last call on Lake Street stoplight design

A plan for a traffic signal that would halt bicyclists and pedestrians where the Minuteman Path crosses Lake St. will have its second and final public hearing on Tuesday, October 17, at 7 PM at Town Hall.

The Minuteman and Lake St. in a less-congested hour. View is towards Spy Pond. Photo: Phil Goff.

The design features a traffic signal with a 70-second cycle, 14 of which would provide a green light for pedestrians and cyclists on the path during peak periods. In addition, the design would make changes to the path itself.
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New center design, scofflaw drivers may put cyclists at risk

A video showing motorists making illegal turns into bicycle and pedestrian traffic seems to corroborate fears that the design of a new bike lane in Arlington Center is flawed.

The illegal turns are shown in a bike-cam’s-eye view of the ride across Arlington Center outbound, using new bike facilities including a new signal at Swan Place. It was recorded and posted on YouTube by Brian Ristuccia.

Nobody was hurt, but someone could have been.

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Snappy new video is vague on bicycles

Experienced cyclists, like motorists, may proceed through the intersection cautiously after stopping at the stop sign.

That explanation is one of the few things missing from the 2-minute video the Town of Arlington made to explain the new traffic signal in Arlington Center.

Source: Town of Arlington.

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Sign of the Times

Source: MassDOT

Before the new default speed limit of 25 miles per hour goes into effect on May 1, the Town will post 16 of these signs at entry points to Arlington.

The new limit, authorized by Town Meeting last fall under a new state law, will apply to most, but not all, of the streets in town. It was adopted by the Board of Selectmen on February 27.

More information in this report, which I wrote last month.

The design of the sign, and the wording “Thickly Settled Speed Limit 25 Townwide Unless Otherwise Posted,” is specified by the state Department of Transportation.

The generic 25-mph sign I used to illustrate my report is not what we’ll see.

Arlington slows down

Speed Limit 25

The default speed limit town wide will drop to 25 miles per hour, from 30, on May 1, after a vote by the Board of Selectmen. Will it make a difference?

The new limits will apply generally to roads in town that do not have a posted limit. Route 2 is not affected.

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Beware the HAWK

There will be no green light at the traffic signal that will regulate the new pedestrian crosswalk over Mass. Ave. in Arlington Center.

At that location, drivers and pedestrians will encounter a new kind of traffic signal unlike any in the area. The potential for confusion, and even injury, is real.

Phase-by-phase diagram of HAWK signal

There’s no green. Click for larger. Source: U.S. Federal Highway Administration

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New Mass. Ave. trees may be work’s end

Check out the ring of fresh dark dirt around this tree on Mass. Ave.:

A newkt okabted A newly planted tree on Mass. Ave. on mass. Ave.

One of the new trees catches the chilly December 10 sun.

That dirt shows that the tree is one of many replacements planted last week by J.H. Lynch, the contractor for the Mass. Ave. Project. The trees replace those that were not planted properly or had not done well on their own in the drought.
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Photos of the frabjous day

A utility worker prepares to transfer cables to a new pole, allowing Mass. Ave construction to finally proceed to its end. October xx photo from Aileen G. P.

A utility worker prepares to transfer cables to a new pole, allowing Mass. Ave construction to finally proceed to its end. September 28 photo from Aileen G.- P.

As previously reported, Eversource finally allowed J.F. Lynch to complete the Mass. Ave. sidewalks in East Arlington by shifting the cables from an old utility pole to a new one in Capitol Square.

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Mass. Ave. project finally ends as Eversource twitches to life

A fresh pour near the corner of Teel St. on the evening of October 3.

A fresh pour near the corner of Teel St. on the evening of October 3.

Nearly a year after the ribbon-cutting for the Mass. Ave. Project in East Arlington, contractor J.H. Lynch is  pouring concrete into the last stretches of Mass. Ave. sidewalk.

Eversource, the power company once known as Boston Edison (and then as NStar), last week shifted the last power cable from an old utility pole across from Lake Street, allowing the pole to be removed and the pouring to take place.
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