Linwood light survives despite changes

At its first meeting in nearly a year, the Town’s Mass. Ave. Review Committee learned of changes to the street design in response to criticism from the Massachusetts Highway Department.

The traffic signal at Linwood and Foster on Mass. Ave, sought both by residents and the Town, remains in the plan, and the basic design is unchanged.

But as with previous iterations of the design, pedestrian safety gave ground again to automobile amenity, and wider travel lanes for cars would squeeze the sidewalks in the business district.

The plan will continue to be refined over the next month or so, with a public informational meeting at Town Hall next Tuesday at 7 PM.

More detailed notes follow. My comments are in red.

The much-delayed planning process itself is on a new schedule, with the goal of resubmitting the plan to Mass. Highway in late July, and for hearings in the fall.

The new plan overcomes state objections to keeping the existing traffic signal at Linwood and Foster by extending the eastbound double-lane configuration back from Bates about a block or so to Tufts Street.

The extra lane provides enough “storage” to prevent cars stopped for the new signal at Bates from possibly backing up into the intersection at Linwood and Foster. I thought I wasn’t going to like this when I first heard about it, but it’s a small change that does not affect any pedestrian crossings.

The biggest change is the elimination of the proposed safety median. This was to be an area about 5 feet wide, flush with the surface of the road, that would make crossing the street easier and safer for pedestrians.

In making this change the engineers were apparently guided by conversations with Mass. Highway, which is not entirely comfortable with medians that are designed to be crossed by cars making left turns into private driveways. However, the new design does not try to compensate for this loss of pedestrian safety with new pedestrian-safety measures.

The new plan keeps a flush median in a few short spots towards the western end of the project, and would also put several small raised islands at Wyman, Foster, and Winter streets.

The new plan distributes the five feet from the median by increasing the widths of travel lanes for cars from 11 feet to 12 and even 13 feet. It would also widen the parking zone, a safety improvement for cyclists who will have to worry about car door opening into the new bike lanes.

The wider lanes extend even into the business district, with the result that plans to expand the sidewalks in front of the Capitol Theater block and elsewhere would be scrapped to make room for the larger lanes. The sidewalk in front of Olympia Pizza would be scaled back two feet to accommodate the wider lanes.

The short version is that pedestrians and businesses lost ground to cars and bicycles with this round of changes. I do not think this reflects the balance that the community wants and I hope it will be redressed. Twelve and thirteen-foot lanes are highway widths not appropriate for an urban business district and not needed for any reason along the corridor.

Arlington’s planning director, Carol Kowalski, described next Tuesday’s public meeting as an “information session,” but the consultants made clear that they are still making the plan final in response to reactions from, among other parties, the public.

I interpret this to mean that some, but by no means all, of the design issues are still in play — specifically those things that changed in response to the  concerns raised by Mass. Highway.

That includes things like the raised islands and the narrower sidewalks, but not things that Mass. Highway seems okay with, such as the basic lane configuration or the bike lanes.

The consultants outlined a schedule for the planning process with the following key dates:

  • July — Resubmit 25% design to Mass DOT
  • September or October — Mass. DOT holds public hearing on the plan in Arlington
  • January 2011 — Town submits 75% design
  • June 2011 — Town submits 100% design
  • January 2012 — Rights of way secured for construction and construction contract is advertised.

4 comments so far

  1. Mark K. on

    Pedestrians and bicyclists do not now experience traffic congestion – sidewalks are already excessive. Accidents, police stops, 911 response all create temporary vehicle congestion. Sidewalks are no different near movie show times and bus stoppings.

  2. Mark K. on

    Linwood and additional crosswalks should be stoplights only activated by pedestrians like the one on Rt. 16 just before I-93. It is usually flashing yellow, turning red for a pedestrian.

  3. Mark K. on

    You are wrong applying this: “Twelve and thirteen-foot lanes are highway widths not appropriate for an urban business district and not needed for any reason along the corridor.”

    Mass Ave. East is Route 3, a state highway, thus 12′-13′ are appropriate. It might also be Rt. 2A. West of Arlington Center, you opinion is more applicable. Heavier traffic should cut over to Summer Street/Rt. 2A.

  4. Mark K. on

    I made a mistake. Mass Ave east is US Route 3 and Mass. route 2A. Route 3 goes from Cambridge to the Canadian border in NH (277mi.), becomes Quebec Route 257 and goes another 53 miles.

    Try demanding a bike path along Rt. 2 so you can visit Walden pond in Concord, since its only a state numbered road and not also a federal one!

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