Town Meeting funds Lake St. signal

By a vote of 198 to 14, Town Meeting last Wednesday approved a capital budget that includes $750,000 for a traffic signal and other changes at or near the Minuteman Path crossing on Lake Street.

The appropriation ends a year-long search for funds for the project.

An amendment that would have diverted the funds to fixing some drainage problems on the Minuteman path lost by a similar margin of 20 to 189.

Many parts

The project includes a new traffic signal at the path intersection and coordination with the Brooks St. traffic signal, which is just 200 feet to the north.

This will involve involved new signal equipment at Brooks and a new electrical connection between the two.

The work also includes changes to the path, including significant widening near the intersection, and pedestrian signals to cross the Minuteman.

These additional aspects account for much of the cost of the project.

I think my 2017 description of the project and how all of the parts fit together is still substantially correct.


The Town sought $400,000 for the project from the state’s Complete Streets program, but failed twice.

The failure has had a ripple effect on other proposals that could not be submitted because $400,000 is the most that any community can get from the grants program in a funding cycle.

The Town Meeting vote means that this project will be payed for entirely by Arlington taxpayers over the course of many years.

Lake St. funding was included in the $13,196,044 capital budget.

Some thoughts on the project

I continue to harbor doubts about this project, explained elsewhere. Let me however note some of the many things that were done right.

The different parts of the project, which together are so expensive, are all essential if we are to go this route.

  • If the new signal were not coordinated with Brooks, it would snarl traffic.
  • If there were no pedestrian signals to cross the Minuteman, children walking to the nearby Hardy school (and others) would be at risk from cyclists velocitized by the green light.
  • If the Minuteman path were not widened at Lake St., congestion at peak would interfere with path traffic and could spill out into the street.

Some thoughts on the funding

It would have been nice to get the $400,000 from the state, cutting our share of the costs by more than half. But I think we are better off for losing it.

The Complete Streets program was established to encourage cities and towns to improve access for pedestrians, cyclists, and buses in new road projects. Lake Street is largely about improving traffic flow for motorists.

Had the project won the grant, every city and town would have followed suit in the next grant cycle.

That would have smothered the Complete Streets idea, which would become just another source of funding for road projects generally.

Taxpayer money is the painful, but correct, way to pay for this project.


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4 comments so far

  1. Ryan J. on

    Thanks for this helpful update, and for providing your personal insights in a way that are both transparent and informative.

  2. Mark Kaepplein on

    Let’s hope the signal coordination on Lake works better than the alleged ones on Mass. Ave., especially Swan, Medford, and Pleasant/Mystic signals.

  3. Brian Ristuccia on

    For perspective, $750,000 could put a RRFB (rapid rectangular flashing pedestrian beacon) at every unsignalized crosswalk on Mass Ave.

    • Adam Auster on

      I really hope that will be considered. If nothing else, this project sets a standard for safety expenditures that, if the Town is to be consistent, would qualify many improvements.

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