Archive for the ‘MassDOT hearing’ Tag

What a difference a year makes

A year ago tonight, hundreds of Arlington residents gathered for what seemed like the umpteenth hearing on the Mass. Ave. Project.

HearingCrowd

The view from the back of the hall at the February 26 hearing (2013).

A year later, the sturm und drang have receded. The Commonwealth is quietly checking the credentials of constructions firms who have bid to break ground on the project this spring.

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Mass. DOT justifies Mass. Ave. design

The design for the Mass. Ave. project in East Arlington meets state and federal requirements for bicycles and pedestrians and satisfies other other criteria, according to a May 28 letter from Thomas Broderick of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Broderick, the chief engineer of MassDOT’s Highway Division, made his reply to written comments on the plan filed in conjunction with last February’s hearing.

The letter shows a state agency that has fully embraced the Town’s design. Federal review, however, is still pending.

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Many stories in fire hose of Mass. Ave. public record

Here’s what one Grafton Street resident told the Massachusetts Department of Transportation about crossing Mass Ave.:

student_crosswalk_sign_2I would like to tell you a true story of crossing that street with my son when he was nine, and two other boys as I was taking them to the Hardy School in the morning.

I am an extremely safety conscious person and yet, at the other end, as we were approaching Sabatino’s, it just so happened that one of the three boys who was with me was hit by a car.
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A pattern of growing support for Mass. Ave.

Last week’s public hearing capped nearly four years in which public opinion slowly but steadily tilted in favor of the Mass. Ave. project.

Key events, hearings, and elections since 2009 tell a story of a community that has sorted through the facts and arguments and reached a conclusion.

  • An uncertain community, divided nearly evenly, confronted the project proposal in 2009.
  • At the June 2010 design meeting, residents voicing strong concerns about safety began to eclipse the increasingly bitter objections of outright opponents.
  • The score was 46-27 at the 2011 hearing, and last week speakers in support outnumbered opponents by nearly 4 to 1.
  • Support for anti-Mass. Ave candidates has steadily dropped in town elections.

The key ingredient to this growing consensus was the willingness of planners and local officials to engage with everyday citizens to explain, listen and, when possible, incorporate criticisms into the design.

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March 12 is deadline for written comments to MassDOT

Last week’s public hearing also comes with a period for written comments that ends on Tuesday, March 12.

Full instructions and addresses are included in the official hearing notice.

A-Town to Feds: We really, really want it

Senator Donnelly warns "we will lose this project" to other communities if we do not act this year.

Senator Donnelly warns “we will lose this project” to other communities if Arlington does not act this year. Also shown at right: Arlington Selectman Joe Curro.

Amidst warnings that Arlington stands to lose more than $5 million in highway funds, a lively public hearing broadly endorsed the Mass. Ave. project by a margin of  nearly 4 to 1, extending a trend of growing support for the plan over time.

The hearing was convened by MassDOT at the request of the Federal Highway Administration, which however was not present.

The crowd, though slightly thinner than the turnout for a similar hearing two years ago, still spilled into the galleries.

The first speaker following presentations from state officials and the project engineers was Senator Kenneth Donnelly, who said that if the project does not move forward Arlington would lose funding for the project to other communities.

Donnelly’s warning was cheered by opponents of the project.

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Why four lanes don’t fit

Arlington Town Hall on Tuesday night. Not quite to capacity, but very full.

April 2011 hearing, nearly a full house

I’ve been mining the transcript of the 25% design hearing that MassDOT held at Town Hall in April 2011, looking for things we ought to remember as we head into yet another such hearing this February 26.

One exchange addresses the question of, in effect, why can’t we have four lanes? Here Richard Azzalina, the Town’s lead consulting engineer, begins with a very provocative statement (Transcript 72.3–75.11):

First of all, I just want to be clear, Mass. Ave. is not designated or is not striped as a four-lane facility. Okay? It’s a very wide one lane.

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Untested highway software not used anywhere else in Mass.

Comments by the Federal Highway Administration that have delayed the reconstruction of Mass. Ave. are based on a new and untested computer tool that “hasn’t been widely reviewed” or “been used in this state by other traffic engineers and state agencies,” according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The agency, in a February 14 reply to a January 23 letter from the Federal Highway Administration, contrasts the Urban Streets Analysis Package promoted by Federal Highway with the Synchro model, which it says is “commonly used” and accepted.

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Clash of bureaucracies led to Mass. Ave. delay

Last month a long-simmering dispute between the Federal Highway Administration and MassDOT over the redesign of Mass. Ave. became public. On Valentines Day MassDOT’s response hinted at a dense back-and forth over traffic merges, trip times, and public participation.

One consequence is that MassDOT bowed to a federal request for another public hearing on the design (7 pm Tuesday February 26 at Town Hall).

Another is that MassDOT has delayed the project by 3 months, with advertising for the project now scheduled for June 1.

But what of the issues that the FHA raised on its January 23 letter to MassDOT? Those would be traffic merges, trip times, and public participation.

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Mass. Ave. schedule slips by 3 months

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation said last week that advertising for contractors to rebuild Mass. Ave. in East Arlington, which had been scheduled for March 1, would instead take place on June 10 this year.

The agency, in a February 14 letter to the Federal Highway Administration, cited no reason for the shift, but the state has been waiting for federal approval before going ahead.

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For the record: Strong community suport for redesign

Town Hall, June 22 2010: Seventh design meeting

Santyana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Is that why we have been invited to return to Town Hall on February 26 for another hearing on Mass. Ave.?

In any case, gentle reader, I have been spending time with the transcript of the 25%-design hearing held April 12 2011, and if you’d like to revisit that halcyon day, you can!

I hereby link to the transcript (191 pages including 6-page speaker index) and attachments (46 pages including 26 sign-in sheets), which I have obtained and parked online for your reading pleasure.

If that’s a bit more than you need right now, here is a quantitative summary and a few observations about process.

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From the horse’s mouth

There’s a scene in Anne Hall where Woody Allen, standing on line for a movie with Diane Keeton, is annoyed by a man holding forth on the meaning of a book by Marshall McLuhan.


The ensuing argument is only settled when McLuhan himself appears and tells the man, “You know nothing of my work…. How you got to teach a class in anything is totally amazing!”

Such authoritative rejoinders are rare, but there were several slow-motion examples captured in the transcript of the 25% design hearing held at Town Hall in April of 2011.

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