Town files plan with 3 pedestrian islands

Long-delayed plans to rebuild Mass. Ave. in East Arlington, including many pedestrian-safety measures, propose three raised pedestrian-crossing islands at Wyman Street, Marathon Steet, and Grafton Street – Orvis Road.

Raised pedestrian refuge (gray) at Marathon Street, within the flush median (light gray)

The Town filed the plans with Mass. Highway on Wednesday.

The plan would also keep existing traffic signals at Teel – Thorndike and at Foster – Linwood, stripe bicycle lanes, reduce the outbound side of the street to a “one-and-a-half-lane” configuration, and widen the inbound travel side to permit formal striping as two full inbound lanes.

The refuge islands are the only significant change to the plans since the version unveiled at Town Day last September.

Earlier drafts of the plan did not consider raised elements, such as a Cambridge-style continuous raised median, due to opposition from the fire department.

Other pedestrian-safety measures include additional crosswalks, bump-outs at pedestrian crossings, and a traversable median, flush with the street, in the quarter-mile stretch between the Grafton and Marathon traffic islands.

The elements of the plan are available on the Town’s web page for the project, but at this writing the Town had not yet posted the detailed functional design report for the project. Update: now it has.

The formal submission of what are called 25% plans triggers a review process by Mass. Highway, which will hold a public hearing on the plans in Arlington sometime this winter.

If approved by the state, the 25% plans will become the framework within which more-detailed design decision are made. The 25% plans include such contentious points as the lane configuration and the location of traffic signals.

If approved, the traffic islands will be the boundaries of an East Arlington business district with a distinct look and feel from the rest of the avenue, with wider sidewalks, the safety median, and improved left turning lanes for cars.

Note: The drawings are dated October 14. Assuming that is correct (and I do) the information about the islands has been in plain sight since the Town posted these drawings last month, and I missed it:

I can’t spot anything new, can you? Perhaps some technical detail has been added.

So much for my powers of observation! If you want to look for yourself, note that the drawings use light gray to denote the “flush textured median,” crosshatching to denote a painted median, and darker gray (with fine lighter scratch marks) for sidewalks and the raised islands.

8 comments so far

  1. Janice Dallas on

    Do you know what they mean by “flush textured median”? I don’t want to get the swivel wheels of my chair caught sideways in a “texture”. That’s one of the reasons why I oppose bricks and pavers.

    • Adam Auster on

      Janice, this is a good point. The “textured” specification for this median is new with this iteration and I have not heard it defined anywhere, though it may be in the Functional Design Report that should be posted next week.

      We do know several things about this median, however, and the most important in terms of your concern is that the flush median as proposed is not crossed by any crosswalks.

      Although the median nominally runs from Milton to Grafton Streets, it does not impinge on the new Milton Street crosswalk and is also absent from the area around Lake Street and its crossings.

      The remaining pedestrian crossings within the ambit of the median have pedestrian refuge islands bisected by flush crosswalks. According the the drawings, the crosswalks are all pavement (yellow) even where they cross the median, not “flush textured” (light gray).

      So at least in the drawings there are no pedestrian crossings over any sort of textured or raised area.

      (The crosswalks are striped with paint.)

      As I understand this process, texture and materials are not really part of this design phase at all. So if you still think there is a problem, it could still be addressed during the 75%-design process. Please let me know if you still think the textured median, in non-crossing areas only, poses a problem.

      The Mass. Ave. Review Committee, which has to some extent guided this process, includes a representative of the Town’s disabilities commission, Barbara Jones. As I recall, she supported the design last year when it went to the Selectmen.

      That design included a flush median (without the word “textured”) that ran most of the length of the project, and there were no refuge islands. Even without the “texture,” those plans show crosswalks as 100% regular pavement (yellow), not median (gray).

  2. Eric Berger on

    Dear Adam,

    You indicate that the Town’s 25% resubmission will trigger a review process culminating in a hearing during the winter. Although you got the story of the resubmissionm, I don’t think you reported the story accurately for your readers.

    Please remember the Town’s original 25% submission did not lead to a hearing but to a rejection.

    I suggest therefore that an accurate reporting of your story should have communicated the following: the Town’s resubmission of its 25% plan will lead either to a hearing in the winter or to the return to the Town of its resubmission by MA DOT due to deficienciesin its plan.

    Eric Berger

    • Adam Auster on

      Eric, I do not agree. There are no facts about the future, but the staff at Mass. Highway seems satisfied with this plan. It will thus go to the hearing.

      The outcome of the hearing is not known. But I do think it will take place.

      Were I to qualify anything in my above account, it would be the schedule, which has slipped many times over the past year and a half. I still think a winter hearing is very likely, however.

      Your use of the word “rejection” to describe the criticisms of the proposal by the staff is ideological. The consequences of this “rejection” are purely technical modifications that do not in any way touch on the basic features of the plan, such as the proposed lane configuration.

      We will soon see what happens, in any case.

  3. Eric Berger on

    Dear Adam,

    You indicate that “the staff at Mass Highway seems satisfied with the plan.” Which staff members at Mass. Highway seem “satisfied with the plan”?


  4. Eric Berger on

    Dear Adam,

    On Tuesday, Novemebr 16, 2010 I posted a comment on your blog. I stated that you indicated that “the staff of Mass. Highway seems satisfied with the plan”, and I asked you to indicate which staff members at Mass. Highway seem satisfied with the plan. It’s now Thursday, November 18 and you have not listed any names. Please explain this.


    • Adam Auster on

      I do not check this blog every day. Also, while I am pleased to be of service, I do not reply to every comment here.

      The peculiar wording of your question makes me wonder if you imagine I am a witness in court, and you are cross-examining me. I assure you, we do not have that kind of relationship. You may look up the names of the members of the staff at Mass. Highway for yourself.

      But I will try to speak to what I understand to be the gist of your question, which is, why do I think the staff is satisfied with the plan as filed.

      The reason is that the Town’s planning department, and its consulting engineers, have satisfied all of the technical issues flagged by the staff at Mass. Highway. Furthermore, they have done so in concert with the staff, not in a vacuum.

      I don’t think there will be any more technical issues, but if there are, they will be small and easily fixed.

      Consequently, the hearing will go forward.

      See you there.

  5. Eric Berger on

    Dear Adam,

    I’m surprised that in your latest comment to me you did not list any names of any Mass DOT staff members to support your contention that “the staff at Mass DOT seems satisfied with the plan”, and that’s why you stated there will be a hearing “sometime this winter”. Instead you wrote to me that “the Town’s planning department, and its consulting engineers, have satisfied all of the technical issues flagged by the staff at Mass. Highway. Furthermore, they have done so in concert with the staff, not in a vacuum”.

    I understand now that you have not spoken with any Mass DOT staff members but have spoken, instead, with someone in the Town’s planning department. That person assured you that the Town’s planning department and its consulting engineers at FST “have satisfied all the techical issues flagged by the staff at Mass. Highway”. That person also assured you that the Town’s planning department and the consulting engineers at FST satisfied them “in concert with the staff” at Mass. DOT.

    Please indicate which member of the Town’s planning department gave you these assurances so that you now state, “Consequently, the hearing will go forward.” Thank you.


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