Critical Public Hearing: Mass Ave Ped/Bike Improvements at Risk

Hello there – just when we think we’ve nearly made it to the finish line, another hurdle has been thrown in the path of the Mass Ave Corridor Plan, jeopardizing many of the safety improvements we’ve worked so hard for.

After a concerted effort from the Concerned Citizens Committee (CCC) and through long letters to state and federal agencies from Eric Berger’s team of lawyers and engineers, MassDOT is now holding yet another public hearing to review the current plans. PLEASE mark your calendars:

Tues, February 26 at 7:00 pm, Town Hall

Because Mass Ave in East Arlington is also State Route 3, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) must sign off on any changes to the roadway. FHWA is now concerned about delays to motor vehicle traffic in the current three-lane plan. The agency’s primary unease is—get ready for this!—the 34 second delay during evening peak hour in 2028 for west-bound traffic.

That’s right folks, fifteen years from now, with a new traffic light at Bates Rd and “only” one westbound traffic lane, motorists and bus riders traveling toward Arlington Center between 5-6pm will need to wait 34 extra seconds.

This is the “catastrophic traffic,” the “Mass-Ave-turned-into-a-parking-lot” that project opponents have warned us all about for the past three years.

Unfortunately, this threat is real. EALS asks ALL of you to attend this public hearing and make your opinions known to state and federal transportation officials.
Your help is especially needed as we approach the April 6 non-binding ballot question about whether folks think Mass Ave should remain as currently striped so we can all travel half a minute faster through the corridor in 2028.

A weak turnout on Feb 26th by supporters, a “yes” vote on the local ballot question, and continued obstruction by FHWA could mean starting the planning process over again. That would cost the Town hundreds of thousands of dollars and could remove nearly all of the pedestrian and bike improvements this plan was expected to bring.

As a reminder, with four lanes, here’s what happens (also see attached):
• Pedestrians will continue to cross four traffic lanes instead of three at every crosswalk, and the two pedestrians refuge islands currently planned to bookend Capitol Square at Grafton and Marathon streets will be removed
• Bicyclists would need to either share space with cars, trucks and buses or ride in the door zone of parked cars to provide themselves some breathing room
• Buses would continue to block traffic when pulling over as they do now because the wide bus-stop zone and bike lane buffer would be gone
• No wider sidewalks ANYWHERE in Capitol Square, meaning no new benches, limited opportunities for street trees, and bike racks conflicting with pedestrians
• Lake Street intersection would be striped with six lanes, looking more and more like Rt. 60 and Mass Ave in the Center
• The elimination of the cobbled flush median in Capitol Square, designed to help make the heart of the business district more distinct
• In summary, a street that functions, in essence, as it does today which few people like and even fewer think is a comfortable and safe place to walk or bike

If you can attend the Hearing and if you intend to speak publicly, please let us know. This could be do or die for this project. We need to match the number of project opponents and are seeking 100 confirmations in hand before the event.

As in 2011, Eric Berger and the CCC are likely to spare no expense in trying to bring attention to their cause. Like 2011, however, supporters of a better Mass Ave will be there in large numbers and will try to take this project over this final critical hurdle.

We’ve stood up to every challenge thus far to support a safer, more livable vision of East Arlington. If we want that to become a reality, the time to fight for it has come.

-Phil and Chad, EALS co-chairs

PS: this meeting will be absolutely critical, so please share this notice with your friends and neighbors.

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