Yet another public hearing challenges critics’ priorities, residents’ stamina

They shoot horses, don't they? Library of Congress photo

They shoot horses, don’t they? Library of Congress photo

Mass. Highway, at the request of the Federal Highway Administration, will hold another public hearing on the Mass. Ave. project to take comments on changes to the plan made since the 25%-design hearing of April 12 2011.

The scope of the hearing, 7 pm Tuesday February 26 at Town Hall, confronts both pro-safety and anti-safety critics of the plan with uncomfortable choices: a safer design that will delay the project by as much as a year, or one with an extra lane at its western end that is ready to go out to bid this spring.

The hearing also challenges weary Arlingtonians to turn out yet again for a process that has included more than a dozen public meetings over more than four years.

Previous plan: Both the pedestrian island (dark grey) and the flush median (crosshatched) are no longer in the plan for the Wyman St. crossing.

The changes at issue added a second inbound lane to the street between Pond Lane and Linwood St., entailing the removal of a pedestrian-safety island at the trouble-prone crossing at Wyman Street, site of a 1996 pedestrian traffic death.

The plan also lost other safety features and turning lanes at that time.

The Town reversed a similar change that would have stripped safety features from Mass. Ave near Milton and Marathon Sts. following public comment. However, the Town stood fast on the Wyman St.–Walgreens area changes.

These changes were opposed by the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition, which supports safer crossings, and supported by the “Stop Mass. Ave.” East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee., which favors additional lanes for Mass. Ave.

Both sides held forth at length at a lively 25% design hearing held at Town Hall on April 4 2011.

But after more than four years of hearings, workshops, meetings, and open houses, is Arlington up for a repeat performance?

If you want more lanes and seek delays, will you be willing to argue that the decision to add a lane was flawed and should be reversed?

Similarly, if (like me) you regret the decision to reduce the safety of the project’s western end, but want construction to begin soon, will you accept the delays as the price of improvement?

Before

The design of the entire western segment of the project changed last year from the design shown above. The traversable safety median, traffic island, and dedicated left-turn lanes were removed in favor of two through lanes inbound. Click for close-up.

After

As proposed today.

As proposed today.

There are uncomfortable questions for everyone in this new development.

The Town made the Wyman–Walgreeens changes last year with no public participation as part of the so called 75% plans. However, lane configuration more properly belongs in the public 25% process.

MassDOT approved those changes without a public hearing last year.

Do the Town and the state still believe this was a smart move?

I hate to say this after all this time, but. Stay tuned.

Update: The Town has posted MassDOT’s official hearing notice, which includes information about how to file written comments for those unable to attend.

Links: Stories at the Boston Globe, the Arlington Advocate, and YourArlington.com. The Town has posted notice of the hearing at its web page for the project. If you’re new in town, here’s a quick overview of the proposed design.

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