News of Mass. Ave.

The Board of Selectmen last week appointed ten new members to its Mass. Ave. Review Committee, which is advising the Board about the pending redesign of that street in East Arlington.

I’m one of the new members. Since I bring no special transportation expertise to this panel, I’ve decided to make telling people about the process and  project part of my contribution. I’ll do my best to report what is going on here at this blog. Since I’ll also have my own opinions I will share those too.

Although I hope this will be useful and interesting to many, this blog is of course entirely unofficial and does not speak for the committee or the town.

The other new members of the committee are listed in the Arlington Advocate. Our first meeting will be this Tuesday, June 16, 7:30 p.m. at the Senior Center (behind Town Hall.)

Adam

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2 comments so far

  1. Colin Ferguson on

    Hello neighbor, I’m a resident on Trowbridge Street, Arlington.

    I have heard that a substantial number of the businesses along Mass Ave are against this plan. They say that in these hard economic times they cannot afford the business loss that the construction disruption will cause.

    We bicycle up and down Mass Ave all the time. It’s a luxury to ride in East Arlington so far from the traffic and from parked cars. The only places where we feel endangered are where the streets are narrowed to accommodate the center island, where we are squeezed in beside busses and frustrated motorists. Sure, the center island looks prettier, but it’s a waste of needed space.

    The bike lane on the Cambridge side is a scary place, simply because we are forced to be so close to the cars. If we must go with the bike lane, I strongly suggest that we explore the Amsterdam model where the lane is between the parked cars and the sidewalk. At least this way we’d only have car doors to worry about.

    Crossing Mass Ave foot is an issue, but I think this can be solved in a much cheaper, less disruptive way by adding crosswalks, better lane markings, and signage. I also like the “bump-outs” in strategic locations. More lights is also an option, but I cannot support the center island idea.

    • Adam Auster on

      Thank your for posting, Colin. I think you are right about businesses being worried, and I do not blame them.

      Also, the bike lanes do nothing for me, and I ride Mass. Ave. a lot. (Fresh pavement would be welcome though!) I strongly agree with you about the bike lanes in Cambridge.

      The street as it is now works pretty well for bikes and cars — as you say, there is a lot of slack that works to everyone’s benefit. It is not, in my view, safe enough for pedestrians. I think that both cars and bikes should be willing to yield a little on this point, to make Mass. Ave safer for people crossing it.

      Maybe you know this already, but the “center island” you refer to is just an area marked on the pavement, not a raised median. (There is some support for putting a few raised traffic islands at some pedestrian crossings, but this is not in the plan yet.)

      I do not blame businesses for being worried about the impact of construction. These places need weekly, if not daily, receipts.

      I have been around long enough to remember what happened to Davis Square when the Red Line went through in the 1980s. Sure, it’s a thriving, vibrant place today, but those businesses are gone. I’ll bet they had plenty of assurances at the time, too.

      We have to hope for the best, though, because repaving Mass. Ave is not optional today, though it might have been when people first started to talk about it ten years ago. According to John Bean, the town’s DPW Director, we need to replace Mass. Ave. within the next five years. I’m sure you have seen signs of wear and tear.

      So, the question is not whether to repave, but how.

      Fortunately this project is nothing like the Red Line extension, or even the overhaul of Summer St. here in Arlington. It is a replacement of pavement, sidewalks, and traffic signals, but not of the underlying layer of concrete. So it is less complex, expensive, and time-consuming.

      To minimize impact on business, the work will be done section by section. In one presentation (sorry, I wasn’t blogging this back then) last April we were told that businesses wouldn’t have to close, though there would need to be plywood ramps the day the sidewalks are done.

      Although I generally believe this, I am glad that the businesses are on top of this issue. I do think they are mistaken, though, if they think this is discretionary. They should focus on making this work.


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