The Mass. Ave. Project

Summary   Controversy   Construction

The reconstruction of Mass. Ave. in East Arlington did not begin until July of 2014, following 5 years of controversy.

This blog began in 2009 as a way of parsing the many disputes.

Many of my columns from that time explore facts then at issue, such as safety and the cause of morning traffic jams.

Others reported on community meetings, actions of state and Town officials, and the evolving status of the project and its design.

Hundreds of people came to design meetings to shape the plan for Mass. Ave.

No issue was too small to attract public scrutiny.

Public skepticism about the project was high in 2009. However, as the Town and its consulting engineers both refined the design and explained the project, public support for the plan grew, and supporters became more outspoken.

A group of die-hard opponents was not swayed by this process. They mixed their opposition with grievances against Town officials in general.

Over time this group, with about $100,000 from a well-off resident, resorted increasingly to stunts such as bogus legal threats. This attracted attention, but not public support.

Man speaking at microphone in auditorium filled with people

An opponent speaks at one of the public hearings on the Mass. Ave. project.

But in 2009, when skepticism was at its peak, they appeared to be leading a movement.

The bulk of construction lasted 15 months, was both a trial and fun to watch, and entailed no huge surprises.

The road has performed more or less exactly as promised so far.

At least for a time, the project’s success buffed the reputation of Arlington’s government as a well-managed organization that knows what it is doing.

During the years that the project was being debated and, finally, built, two pedestrians died after being struck by cars in East Arlington crosswalks.

One of them was my neighbor.

This project was “phase 1” of a redesign that is still slated to advance west, eventually, to the Lexington line.

The East Arlington segment is about a mile long, from the Cambridge line to Pond Lane. It incorporates bike lanes, new signals, and new pavement and sidewalks.

Mass. Ave.with new lane markings for cars and bikes

There’s no missing the bike lane on this busy eastbound approach to Lake St.

There are modest, but real, improvements in level of service for motor vehicles, and other benefits that are less obvious.

The pedestrian-scale lighting in the business district was a part of this project. The whole thing cost $6 million, paid for with state and federal grants.

For more information, I have compiled a page of design-phase highlights and another of construction highlights.

Also, in 2009 the Town’s Transportation Advisory Committee prepared a synopsis of Mass. Ave. – related events as far back as 1996.

If you want to discuss the history, please do so in comments to this related blog post.

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