Selectmen move Mass. Ave. to next step

With little fanfare, the Board of Selectmen tonight voted to inform Mass. Highway that the Town would proceed into the so-called 75%-design phase of the Mass. Ave. Project.

The vote was 4-1, with Diane Mahon casting the only dissenting vote, which she qualified by saying that she nonetheless supported the move to the 75% phase.

Road projects are divided into three design phases dubbed 25, 75, and 100 percent, though the distinction is more qualitative than quantitative. (This column describes the three phases.)

The end of the 25% phase means that such basic design issues as lane configuration or bike lanes are no longer on the table, though there may be some fine-tuning of the design to make it work better or to accommodate relocated bus stops and other requirements.

Although the 75% phase is generally more technical, it includes such issues of public interest as the design and landscaping of the sidewalk areas and the creation of a construction plan with the least impact on businesses.

In contrast to the Board’s vote to submit 25% plans nearly two years ago, when each selectman explained his or her position in detail, tonight’s vote followed a short exchange in which only some members made statements.

Clarissa Rowe said that public participation would continue in the 75%-design process, and noted, “We now have had three different engineering firms look at the same data and come to the same conclusion” about the project.

She said that representatives from Mass Highway had told her that “every single business will be open whenever they want to be open” during the construction phase of the plan.

Dianne Mahon praised the letter to Mass. Highway as “almost perfect” and said she supported going to 75% plans. Nonetheless, she did not agree with everything in the letter and felt that by casting a vote against it she would be pressuring Mass. Highway to be more responsive to the concerns (1) of Arlington, and especially (2) of businesses.

Kevin Greeley spoke with some heat about the need for a safer Mass. Ave.: “we can’t have this expressway…. It is an unsafe road.”

Annie LaCourt did not explain her yes vote this time, and Dann Dunn only asked Ms. Mahon to explain hers further.

The vote mirrored that of August 2009, with only Dunn voting (yes) for the first time.

I screwed up and do not have a copy of the letter, but I wanted to file this report tonight. Update: Here it is.

Despite Mahon’s “no” vote, the Selectmen seemed to be on the same page about moving forward, unlike two years ago.

This anticlimactic vote has turned a page and the project has entered a new phase. The contentious 25% plan is now the template within which further design work will unfold.

Stay tuned!

Update: Here for the record is coverage in the Arlington Advocate and YourArlington.com.

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