Summary of MassDOT Hearing on Mass Ave

HELLO EALS supporters, you all rock! You recognized the critical importance of MassDOT’s Public Hearing this Tuesday and supporters of the current three-lane plan came out in huge numbers! We estimated nearly 3/4 of the 250-300 folks at Town Hall were supporters. By our count, comments made in support of the plan numbered 48 (which included two elected officials) while negative comments numbered 16. Three or four were generally neutral or contained questions about the design.
We consider this a MAJOR milestone in our 4+ year struggle to maintain the pedestrian, bike and motorist safety benefits contained in a 3-lane plan. Since 2009-10 when the neighborhood was more divided about the “removal” of a westbound travel lane, support for the concept has grown and could well represent a solid majority of East Arlington neighbors. Highlights on Tuesday night included two emotional testimonials of people hit by cars on Mass Ave, stirring speeches by Board of Selectmen Chair Kevin Greeley and State Senator Ken Donnelly, and simply the overwhelming number and diversity of supporters in Town Hall.
Based on the Hearing, one is left to perhaps conclude that opposition to the three-lane plan continues to deepen but is less broad. While most of the 16 comments in opposition were reasonable and well thought-out, the leaders of the Concerned Citizens Committee continue to perpetuate a bitter narrative of a project being shoved down the throats of the neighborhood and businesses by a shadowy cabal of unaccountable elected officials, bicycle activists and engineers hell-bent on creating traffic distruptions. Leaders Eric Berger and Maria Romano each demanded to have five full minutes to speak when all others were given only three. After each wasting at least a minute to tell DOT and the audience why they needed the extra time (primarily because they represents “thousands”, the “98% of users of the road” and they’ve worked on this issue “for years”), both insisted that they would keep talking no matter what. After sustained clapping and cheering from the audience when their three minutes were up, both eventually gave in. Judge for yourself in the video of Mr. Berger’s speech (as well as Kevin Greeley’s and a more-detailed summary of the entire hearing) on the Arlington Patch site:
Note that those not able to speak Tuesday night should submit their comments–short and sweet is okay!–to MassDOT before March 11 to be part of the public record. If so, it must be a hard-copy letter and mailed to:

Thomas F. Broderick, P.E.
Chief Engineer, MassDOT
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
Attention: Project Management Section, Project File No. 604687

Send electronic copy to LWiener@town.arlington.ma.us

ONE THING WE WANT TO MAKE VERY CLEAR: while last night was a big victory for our cause, we still have lots of work to do. There is still some anxiousness from MassDOT and Federal Highway about the upcoming non-binding ballot measure for the April 6 Town election. We must continue to talk to our friends and neighbors to make sure they know what’s at stake if a strong majority vote Yes for a four lane Mass Ave: the loss of many safety provisions, restarting the planning process that will take at least another two years, and seriously jeopardizes the federal and state money that’s waiting for us if the Town and its engineers can finish the plan and advertise it to bid before Sept. 1.

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