Mass. Ave.: On schedule and coming through


“Premature spalling” of sidewalk replaced last fall near Allen St. by Dunkin Donuts.

The state Department of Transportation is designing an additional sidewalk bump at the Trinity Baptist Church. It is investigating the “premature spalling” of some of the sidewalk poured last fall and has delayed work several times at the request of local businesses.

However, at a public meeting with residents at the Thompson School on May 14, the team managing the reconstruction of Mass. Ave. in East Arlington rebuffed requests from residents for changes to mitigate the impact of construction on residents and businesses.

About 35 residents learned the above and other construction news from the project team that includes MassDOT and contractor J.H. Lynch. It was about half the number who attended a similar briefing in June of 2014.

The panelists also told residents that the project would reach “full beneficial use” this fall and bluntly advised that night work to resurface Mass. Ave. would be “noisy.”

The Town requested the new bump-out on the northern side of the Varnum Street crosswalk on April 27.

During the meeting Greg Oswitt of J.H Lynch and Sons, the lead contractor for the project, said that some damaged sidewalk panels would be replaced “probably” this fall.

However, when it came to requests from residents for better accommodation for pedestrians during construction, or better scheduling to minimize the times when sidewalks are torn up but unworked, panelists were less accommodating.

“We’re doing the best we can,” Oswitt said at one point.

Minimizing disruption

Of the stretch of sidewalk between Winter and Marathon Streets, which was opened on May 11 and which MassDOT had said would take 2½ weeks to complete, Oswitt told Marc Gurton of 13Forest Gallery to expect work to take 4 weeks.

Sidewalk work in the business district, Oswitt said, takes “a little longer” because of the “red and silver…two-toned sidewalks” and the need to lay electrical conduit for pedestrian-scale lights.

The business-district sidewalks also include granite-edged planters that similarly require additional time, Oswitt said after the meeting.

Work on signal-mast foundations could also delay completion of the Winter–Trowbridge segment, he said.

Nonetheless, Oswitt noted during the meeting that construction had bowed to the needs of businesses twice, delaying work in Capital Square before Christmas and Mothers Day.

MassDOT Liaison Nathanial Cabral-Curtis invited residents and businesses to take specific problems up with him.

At the 2014 community meeting Oswitt had described sidewalk work in 100-foot segments taking about a week per block.

Looking ahead

Cabral-Curtis also said that sidewalk work was on track to end before labor day, at which point some 9 weeks of road resurfacing would begin.

That work will include 16 nights of night work that will entail “noise, a lot of trucks, [and] back-up noise,” according to Oswitt.

However, he said nights devoted to side-street work will be confined to an area smaller than the entire mile-long project zone, and that the construction team might decide to work on side streets during the day.

Someplace to walk

Rachael Stark of Walking in Arlington was one of several residents who said that the construction plans often did not include a place for people to walk without backtracking to a crosswalk and crossing to the other side of Mass. Ave.

An excavator rests it's maw in front of the Bank of America ATM near Marathon St. on May 12.

The sidewalk is closed at Marathon St. on May 12

“Give us someplace to walk,” she said.

Phil Goff 0f the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition said that the packed-dirt surfaces of unfinished sidewalk areas are uneven and, in the rain, muddy.

Scott Kelloway, the project manager from MassDOT, expressed a willingness to respond to particular problems but not to change the set-up at construction sites.

He said that for instance Lynch had spread more gravel in response to specific complaints about mud. However he said the construction zones meet the requirement of being “generally passable” without further improvement.

In response to other questions, panelists said

  • The project team is generally confident of the schedule going forward because most of the underground work is done, minimizing surprises.
  • Sidewalk construction will probably reach the Capitol Theater block in early July. Lynch will tidy up work sites in advance of the Feast of the East festival on June 13.
  • The new traffic signal at Bates Rd. will be switched on “when the road has been configured to match it” this fall. The lights correspond to lanes that do not exist yet.
Actually the Watertown trolly, ca. 1910.

Actually the Watertown trolly, ca. 1910.

Oh, and the story about how there are still trolly tracks buried beneath the surface of Mass. Ave.?

True, according to Cabral-Curtis.

Streetcar service to Arlington ended in 1955.

Town officials, and State Senator Ken Donnelly, also attended the meeting.

The slide presentation from the meeting, which includes a summary of planned work, will be posted soon on the Town’s project web page, according to Cabral-Curtis.

With “full beneficial use” this fall, and project completion next spring, this may have been the last public  meeting with the project team. Cabral-Curtis can be reached at; (617) 482-7080 x236.

Click here for recent construction news.


2 comments so far

  1. markk02474 on

    Was anything said about National Grid doing pavement cuts to upgrade natural gas pipe sizes? Is that just part of the 9 weeks of “road resurfacing” that wasn’t itemized along with other things, because just grinding down and repaving doesn’t take 9 weeks?

    • Adam Auster on

      There was no mention of gas-pipe work, to the best of my recollection.

      MassDOT believes that 8 or 9 weeks are needed for that phase of work. The time includes, for instance, 2 weeks to lower utility holes before laying down 3 layers of pavement and another 2 weeks to raise them back afterwards.

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