Selectmen tout “major safety and mobility improvements”

The Board of Selectmen last night approved a letter to MassDOT “affirming the Town’s commitment to advance the roadway reconstruction of Mass. Ave.”

A scan of the letter is here, and the text follows the highlights I excerpt below.

  • “The project underwent a conceptual design process that included 6 public meetings and 4 meetings in front of the Board of Selectmen….The plan has improved through this public process despite the continued opposition of some.
  • “Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington is in deteriorated condition….The new design will improve safety and mobility for drivers, pedestrians, bike riders, and transit riders using the corridor.
  • “The Town recognizes that some residents….are concerned about the way the lanes are being configured. But…the data shows there is ample capacity to accommodate projected traffic, while providing major safety and mobility improvements for pedestrians and bike riders.
  • “We respectfully request that the project be advanced to the 75% Design Phase.”

Here’s the whole thing:

At the request of MassDOT’s Highway Division Project Manager, we are writing this letter to advance the roadway reconstruction of Mass. Ave. in Arlington, from Pond Lane to the Cambridge city line.

The project underwent a conceptual design process that included 6 public meetings and 4 meetings in front of the Board of Selectmen. A Review Committee was appointed by the Town manager which met 12 times and provided guidance to the engineers. The Town also met individually with representatives of those opposed to the plan in an effort to resolve differences. The plan has improved through this public process despite the continued opposition of some. Following the public meetings, the Town and its design consultant, Fay, Spofford & Thorndike (FST) evaluated the key issues raised by residents and refined the design based on the comments and information collected from the public.

The preferred concept has now advanced through the 25% Design phase, and a public hearing was held on April 12, 2011. The  Public Hearing was well attended by those favoring and those opposing the project.

Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington is in deteriorated condition. It is a very wide road (63′ to 78′ wide) due to trolly tracks that once ran down the middle of the street and are now paved over. These wide unmarked lanes in both directions lead to chaotic traffic flow. During the peak travel hours, 70–100 bikes per hour use Mass. Ave. The new design will improve safety and mobility for drivers, pedestrians, bike riders, and transit riders using the corridor. It is designed to meet the guidelines of the MassDOT Design Manual for accommodation of all users of this important roadway.

The Town recognizes that some residents expressed concerns about the project at the 25% Design Public Hearing and though written letters to MassDOT. Some residents are concerned about the way the lanes are being configured. But the Town, and our design engineers, believe that the data shows there is ample capacity to accommodate projected traffic, while providing major safety and mobility improvements for pedestrians and bike riders. The design includes 2 new bike lanes, 3 additional crosswalks, and 11 new curb extensions to accommodate walkers, bus riders, and bicyclists. This is in keeping with the State’s design standards.

The Town supports the road design shown on the 25% Design Plans. The following departments and groups in Town have voiced their support for this plan:

  • Arlington Board of Selectmen
  • Town Manager
  • Police and Fire Chiefs
  • Transportation Advisory Committee
  • Disabilities Commission

We respectfully request that the project be advanced to the 75% Design Phase. We believe the design will improve this important stretch of roadway connecting Boston, Cambridge, Arlington, and Lexington. We appreciate your support to date, and look forward to working with you on its completion.

The vote on the letter was 4-1.

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6 comments so far

  1. Mark Kaepplein on

    Yet more distortions and spin from Selectman. Good for Dianne in opposing the letter. Out of 8766 average hours in a year, how many had over 75 bikes/hour (one or two per minute)? Does one or two bikes per minute peak during good weather and bike week justify bike-only lanes instead of sharing (remember pre-school and kindergarten)? What a surprise that employees hired by Selectmen endorsed the plan, along with groups they appointed!

    Given that previous studies did not support one lane each way, what were the big concessions by Selectmen? The letter doesn’t say. Selectmen did meet, but largely ignored opposition.

  2. Douglass Taft Davidoff on

    Good letter from the Selectmen. Tells it like it is.

    As for Mr. Kaepplein, he’s perpetrating a distortion of his own.

    Consider this corollary to his inquiry: “Our of 8766 average hours in a year, how many saw enough motor vehicles on Mass Ave to justify the current two-lanes de jure and four lanes de facto scheme?” By that kind of reasoning, maybe just a lane in each direction is enough, don’t you think, Mr. Kaepplein? I mean, if now we’re going to be concerned with right-sizing the road judging by the overnight traffic then let’s by all means right-size it for all users including motor vehicles.

    But we both know that we’re not concerned with designing the road to accommodate just the overnight users, who are small in number but account for about a third of Mr. Kaepplein’s precious 8766 annual hours. Obviously, the road needs to be designed to accommodate all users — vehicular, cycling, pedestrian — at the very busiest times when everyone needs a piece of it. That’s why I believe the Town’s plan represents a very good approach to competing modes of travel and Mr. Kaepplein’s objection is a red herring (or, given our unique geography, should we say “a red alewife?”)

    If Mr. Kaepplein is going to distract us with questions about the right town policies for public rights of way in the wee hours, then perhaps he should take a crack at studying the town’s overnight parking policy. If it’s the overnight hours that concern him, the overnight parking policy be a better fit of an issue for him, and I, for one, would welcome his input on it.

    • Mark Kaepplein on

      Bicyclists constantly spin statistics to favor their position everywhere. I merely demonstrated that it works in reverse too. Peak commuter hours experience 1-2 cyclists per minute at most, in good weather during bike to work week? Do you really want to compare that to car and MBTA bus volumes at corresponding hours? My point is to best match supply with demand. If we lived in China 50 years ago where nearly all traffic was by bicycle, yeah, give cars only one lane each way. Oh, wait, that is the plan for 1/3 of the project.

      Wee hours and overnight parking? Where did that come from? Elsewhere I’ve only noted that Arlington is dead at night. The relation to this topic might be underutilization of costly infrastructure.

  3. Steve on

    From an opponents perspective..I am an opponent in that I am for the overall plan but against the lane configuration which will add to the traffic and congestion…there is a bit of spin in the letter…

    For example..of the “6 public meetings” 3-4 of them nobody knew about. It was not until the Hardy schools meetings did the project get on anyone’s radar and even then that meeting people only knew about because of word of mouth. So are they saying there were 6 total meeting or 6 after the hardy school meeting and if so when were the others.

    Or…”The Town also met individually with representatives of those opposed to the plan…” Really?? When were these meetings and who exactly did they meet with and why did they not meet with the East Arlington Concerned citizens group as a whole, why did they meet with just individuals?? The initial plan did get reworked but after the 25% plan was put together what efforts were made to resolve any of the outstanding issues?? I did not see any compromises after that point, I did not see the selectman addressing any issues..I would be interested to know what they were??

    Did the selectman discuss a trial run of the new design. A trial run would not have been perfect but it would have given us an idea of how the plan would work out. It is interesting that the town can do a trial run for the changes they want to make at the robbins library/Rt60 area but not for east Arlington. What about having a straw vote to get an idea of residence actually support or oppose the plan..it could have been a ballot question in april or june.

    These are just two of the major issues of the opposition that were ignored..in fact after the 25% plan was put together the selectman basically ignored the opposition!

    And what about the statements “The Town supports the road design..” and “The Town recognizes that some residents expressed concerns about the project..”.

    Yes the town MEANING the selectman, the manager,the transportation committee… basically town officials support the plan, the TOWN as a whole may or may not support the plan. Also why did they say “some resident’s” why didn’t they say “many”??

    The fact is we really do not know the extent of the support/opposition to the plan because “The Town” did not put it on the ballot…I guess that is because the selectman were really concerned about reaching out to the opposition…

    Those are just a couple of the glaring ones…

    Also Mr. Davidoff..just curious where did Mark in his comment mention anything about overnight traffic or are you the one trowing out red alewife’s??

  4. Adam Auster on

    More light, less heat?

    Gentlemen, I am flattered that you want to have this conversation here. May I suggest a little restraint?

    Pretend we were all sitting together in a real place. No need to moderate your views, but tone matters too. Thanks!

    “Gentlemen, you can’t fight here! This is the War Room!”—Dr. Strangelove

  5. Mark Kaepplein on

    The Gang of Four Selectmen have touted Major Lies and Distortions. The letter claims 70-100 bikes per hour, but the plan’s developer, FST claims peaks of 34 to 69 bikes per hour (page 753 of the FDR pdf file). FST measured 1,522-1,785 motor vehicles per hour during corresponding hours.

    Every measure of what residents desire is opposed to the Selectman’s bike lane proposal. The 2020 survey used in 2002 meetings listed bike lanes 15th among road concerns, yet town officials have always included bike lanes in designs and proposals. Finally, more people wrote MassDOT opposing the project than supporting it. 2,700 residents and a clear majority of businesses also signed a petition opposing the proposed lane reductions. It would be more accurate to claim only “some” support of the project than opposition.


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