Town drops more safety features and a crosswalk on Mass. Ave.

The latest design for Mass. Ave. in East Arlington replaces two crosswalks with one and removes a pedestrian crossing island and other safety features that had been part of the plan.

Before vs. After

As proposed April 2011: Two crosswalks, both with safety features. The Milton St. crossing (at right) would have been new.

As revealed March 30: One crossing at Melrose with minimal safety features

The changes, depicted in drawings released on Friday, replace crossings at Marathon and Milton Streets with a single crosswalk at Melrose St.

Changes that similarly remove safety features from the Wyman St. crosswalk were made public earlier in March. The Town filed the changes with Mass. Highway in February.

All the affected crossings are unsignalized but had provided bump-outs and, in the case of Wyman and Marathon, a pedestrian island to make pedestrians more visible, to slow traffic, and to make crossing safer and easier.

Wyman Before: Safer crossing

After: No island, extra lane to cross

The new design preserves bump-outs at Wyman, but reintroduces a multi-lane threat at that crossing.

The drawings on the Town’s web page for the project, though mislabeled (“east” for “west”) show the entire project.

The pedestrian islands, crossings, and bump-outs removed in February were developed over the course of two years in response to community appeals for a safer street.

Public concern for safety on Mass. Ave. dates at least from 1996, when two women were killed after being struck crossing Mass. Ave.

These features and others were the subject of public hearings and were approved by the engineering staff at Mass. Highway last year. The recent changes were submitted without public comment or even notice.

The changes threaten to upstage the landscape design, also filed in February. The Town is presenting the new design to the community at an open house at the Hardy School on April 4 from 6 to 8 p.m.

This report raises more questions than I have the answers to right now, but at least permits a before and after comparison. Click on any of the graphics for a larger view.

1 comment so far

  1. Mark Kaepplein on

    Both pedestrian deaths in 1996 occurred after sundown, so lighting was the primary factor. The pedestrian who died by CVS reportedly darted into the road and no crosswalks was proposed there. Arlington is among the lowest in pedestrian deaths compared to neighboring communities.

    The raised medians near Wyman made two choke points. Removing them makes a return to four lanes less expensive for residents.The single crosswalk at Melrose St. appears to reduce parking spot losses.

    I am disappointed to see the huge curb extension in front of Walgreen’s return. Its a waste of money and parking to make up for lost spots on the #350 block. Perhaps its just to block the MBTA’s desire to consolidate two bus stops to one there. Its a bad idea to limit options for the next 40-50 years with such an albatross.

    Restoration of a travel lane for 1/3 of the project is a step in the right direction. Consider the Walgreen’s location. What if it were redeveloped as a lower level store with office or luxury residential space above with southern exposure and beautiful views of Spy Pond and parks, and easy access to the bike path, parks, Arlington Center, MBTA etc. Any improved utilization of the location will increase traffic, so better to restore some mobility now. Hopefully Arlington won’t lose one of the few places wide loads like MIT furnaces, houses, or tour buses can park or turn around.

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