To: Patricia Leavenworth, Project Manager
Marie Rose PE, MassDOT Director of Projects
Thomas Broderick, MassDOT Chief Engineer
From: Phil Goff and Chad Gibson, co-chairs
East Arlington Livable Streets (EALS) Coalition
Re: Comments Regarding 25% Plans for the Arlington Center Minuteman Crossing Project (#606885)
Date: November 20, 2013
CC: Carol Kowalski, (Director of Arlington Planning Department), Laura Wiener (Town Planner), Adam Chapdelaine (Town Manager), Transportation Advisory Committee, Arlington Board of Selectmen (via Marie Krepelka), Michael Rademacher (Arlington DPW Director)
East Arlington Livable Streets (EALS) Coalition is neighborhood group with over 300 supporters and over 500 Facebook followers. We advocate for safer streets for all users and a vibrant neighborhood for residents and businesses alike. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the revised 25% plans for the Minuteman Bikeway Crossing of Mass Ave and Route 60.
These comments reference the revised 25% plan shown to the public on November 6th, 2013. We applaud the revised plan removing the lane of curb-side parking on the south side of Mass Ave between Pleasant Street and Swan Place. The removal of parking lane has created much safer conditions for path users transiting Arlington Center. However, the Town’s plan to create three parallel parking spots, carved out of the pocket park along Swan Place, unnecessarily increases the hazard to cyclists from parking maneuvers and opening doors on the de-facto path alignment on Swan Place. We recommend that the current park be improved with seating, a drinking fountain, and bicycle parking, which would encourage path users to stop and explore Arlington center. We fully understand the Town’s desire to minimize parking removal in Arlington Center. However, keeping this as green space would benefit the town and its businesses more than three parking spaces. While the proposal to change the Swan Place pocket park to parking is our primary concern, we would also like to make the following observations:
- Crosswalk geometries can be improved. The two crossings of Mass Ave at Pleasant
St. should be made more orthogonal and shorter, as approximately shown in blue in Figure 1. This also gives more room on the southwest corner for bike queuing, shown in red. A raised crosswalk at the end of Swan Place, in the current location would improve the desire line for pedestrians along Mass Ave and make them more visible to cars and cyclists turning onto Swan Place.
Figure 1: Proposed Changes to 25% Plan
- The westbound bike lanes should be striped between the thru traffic lane and the right turn lane.
- Since many inexperienced cyclists and families with children will ride in this area, we request that the bike lanes on Mass Ave be made 6’ in width which will provide a more inviting option than sidewalk riding for bicyclists. It will also increase queuing capacity for bicyclists, especially at the Mass Ave. intersection west bound.
- From the entrance of the path at Swan Place, the sidewalk in front of the auto body shop needs to be reconstructed and improved since it leads directly to the signalized pedestrian crossing. This crossing should also be moved closer to the corner of Mass Ave and Swan Place. Note how a raised Swan Place crossing would make such a shift possible while still meeting ADA requirements; indeed the solution is superior for disabled users.
- Dashed green advisory lanes for bikes should run in both directions on Swan Place to direct riders to the start of the path leaving Arlington Center.
- In the northwest corner, we believe the “cycle track” should not be marked as such, no green lanes or bike markings. This portion should be considered the multi-use path and should be designed like the rest of the Minuteman, since pedestrians will expect to use this section instead of walking down Mystic St.
- The current ending of the path at Mystic St. should be turned into a sidewalk entering the path with the main path turning towards the Mass Ave. intersection. The triangular section between the new path alignment, the old path alignment and the sidewalk along Mystic St. should be used for ample bicycle parking, a, bike fix-it stand, and a drinking fountain, as shown in orange in Figure 1.
- Timing of Swan Place light should include flashing red, not solid red, until someone pushes button for green. This will continue to allow off-peak left turns legally.
Our group is enthusiastic about this project and the improvements to the design since the initial 25% plans presented last spring. While the removal of the east bound parking lane on Mass Ave is a positive step forward, we consider replacing it with parallel parking on Swan Place as a missed opportunity to improve the appeal of Arlington Center to path users and maintain green space.
Hey all – we’ve been waiting a long time for the opportunity to say that the Mass Ave Corridor planning and design process is finally OVER! The 100% plans and specifications have been approved by ALL state and federal authorities and was advertised for bid in the Globe yesterday.
You can also see MassDOT’s web site posting here:
This effort started over 250 long weeks ago at the first public meeting in early October 2008. Since then, there have been:
- 2 MassDOT hearings
- 7-8 Town of Arlington meetings
- over a dozen Project Advisory Committee meetings
- a handful of meetings with the business community
- 4-5 Board of Selectmen meetings with Mass Ave on the agenda
Throughout it all, EALS Coalition has been there to voice our support for the pedestrian/bicycle improvements and the three-lane plan in the face of sometimes-boisterous opponents and state and federal agencies that occasionally dragged their feet and slowed the process down.
We could not have done it without the tremendous embrace of the project from the 300 of you on our e-mail list. We thank you for your multiple letters and e-mails, your placard waving and your testimony at public meetings and hearings.
During the campaign against last April’s ballot referendum, passionate volunteers came from throughout the Town and a large number of voters made clear their desire for a safer, slower, and more green Mass Ave in East Arlington. We know that the completion of the project sometime in 2015 will improve safety, enhance the business environment and maintain the high quality of life all Arlingtonians enjoy.
Bids are due on the nearly $6 million project in January so keep your eyes open for bulldozers next spring. EALS will continue our work to improve walking and bicycling along Mass Ave throughout the Town and take on projects aimed to enhance safety and livability.
Thanks again for all of your support!
- April 23rd (Tues), 7pm, Town Hall – MassDOT’s 25% Design Hearing for Minuteman Path connection improvements through Arlington Center. For more information and access to drawings, click here for the Town’s project web site. As of now, EALS does not have an official position on the Town’s current plan for this critical connection. During discussions at our monthly meeting on Thursday, all agreed that the plan is a strong one overall and should improve connectivity and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. However, everyone pointed out the concern about the curb-side parking that remains along the south side of Mass Ave between Pleasant St and Swan Place. Because of the parking, the existing median, travel lanes and parking aisle are all squeezed down to their bare minimums. This places Alewife-bound bicyclists dangerously close to car doors, 1.5′-3′ closer to cars than the well-designed bike lanes planned for the Mass Ave Corridor. Some thought the tight conditions will encourage some bicyclists to continue to use the adjacent sidewalk, mitigating one of the primary goals of the planning effort.
- April 27th (Saturday), 9am - Minuteman bikeway cleanup. Volunteers needed, bring gloves, meet at Rte 2 overpass at 9 am, finished around 11:00 in Arlington Center. Please email EALS if you want to help out
May 1 (Wednesday) – International Bike and Walk to School Day will be celebrated at the Hardy School. For more information or to volunteer to help, please e-mail us back with attention to Alex Bilsky, the Hardy School coordinator
May 11th (Saturday) and May 14th (Tuesday), 7am-7pm - Volunteers needed for 1-2 hour increments to count walkers, bicyclists, skaters, etc using the Minuteman Path at Thorndike Field. The annual counts are coordinated by the Town of Arlington and EALS is helping to recruit helpers at the East Arlington site (others include counts in the Center and Heights). More info is below.
What are you doing School VacationWeek?
is a nonprofit organization that
teaches individuals with disabilities to ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle through it’s iCan Bike program. To learn more about this organization visit www.icanshine.org
Volunteer Opportunity: Be a spotter for the same rider for each of the 5 days and experience the
thrill of giving the gift of riding a bike! 75 invigorating minutes per day… it just may be the most rewarding exercise and “moving” experience you’ve ever had!
Orientation/Training: Sunday afternoon, April 14th - 2 hours
Riding Program: Monday through Friday, April 15th-19th - 5 90-minute sessions available each day.
Location: Ottoson Middle School, 63 Acton St., Arlington, MA
· At least 14 years old
· Able to attend one or more 90 minute sessions for each of the 5 days of camp at same time each day
†’Each session consists of a 75 minute riding session plus a 15 minute training/debriefing
· Able to provide physical, emotional and motivational support to assigned rider
· Able and willing to get some exercise (light jogging/running) for a great cause!
For more information or to volunteer:
Hello EALS members and supporters of A Better Mass Ave
Yesterday was quite a day. Turnout was up significantly (29% overall) due, in all likelihood, to the non-binding referendum about traffic lanes on Mass Ave. We are delighted that Kevin Greeley—running on a platform that strongly supported the current 3-lane plan—easily won re-election. He defeated Maria Romano, who made opposition to the Mass Ave plan a core part of her platform, by a 58%-42% margin. We are also pleased to note that Kevin’s votes out numbered Ms. Romano’s by 57 votes in East Arlington.
While clearly a defeat to Question 1 was what we’ve been working towards this spring, it was not to be. The question about retaining 4 traffic lanes on Mass Ave won by a margin of roughly 51%-49%. We came within 237 votes of defeating a referendum that was an overly-simplistic question whether voters preferred 4 lanes without any mention of the trade-offs to pedestrian and bicycle safety, enhancements to Capitol Square, the inability to meet state design standards and, of course, the risk of losing the $6.8m in federal and state funding. Take heart folks, some take-aways from yesterday are that we:
- dispelled the notion that “the 98% majority want 4 lanes.” (Direct quote from YES campaign literature and from Eric Berger’s spoken words).
- rejected the notion that there is a decision message in this vote. Clearly the Town is nearly evenly split on the project, including the neighborhoods that directly abut Mass Ave.
- know through anecdotal evidence that some people were confused by the wording of the ballot. Despite our efforts, we believe that some people who support the project voted “yes” without carefully understanding what the referendum asked.
- look at the Selectmen’s race as a proxy. While both candidates’ position on Mass Ave was crystal clear and central to their campaigns, Kevin Greeley easily defeated his opponent in 17 out of 21 Precincts.
Another clear positive from this election was the enormous support from over 80 election-week volunteers across Arlington with the shared vision of a stronger community tied together with a more livable East Arlington. Our livable streets community is not weaker after this election, but stronger.
Rest assured, EALS Coalition and others will continue to work our tails off to ensure that the corridor plan moves forward to final design and out to bid before the September deadline. Beyond September, the federal/state funding allocation could be removed from the state’s TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) funding cycle, putting us at the back of the long line of towns and cities wanting federal and state aid for road projects.
We are confident that MassDOT and the Federal Highway Administration are not going to put any further roadblocks to the plan because 237 more Arlingtonians voted “yes” to a simplistic and vague ballot question. As a non-binding referendum, it simply provides a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. We foresee no indication of any weakening of support from the unanimous Board.
While opponents to the Mass Ave plan have surely taken heart to yesterday’s results, in the end, there is no doubt we will have A Better Mass Ave in the near future.
Thanks again to everyone,
-Phil and Chad
PS – EALS next monthly meeting will be Wednesday April 10 at 7:30 at the Fox Library. Clearly, we intend to further analyze election results and will discuss next steps to moving the project forward.
From early on the planning process, going back to 2009, Kevin Greeley has been a strong supporter of the pedestrian, bicycle and streetscape improvements in the Mass Ave plan and we are happy to endorse him for another term on the Board of Selectmen. Besides an advocate for the current plan for Mass Ave, Kevin has been an effective Selectmen and can certainly take some credit for the high quality of life that we have living in Arlington.
In addition, as many of you know, there is a ballot question asking Arlingtonians if we prefer to maintain 4 traffic lanes on Mass Ave in East Arlington. Note that numerous traffic studies have ALL concluded that four lanes are unnecessary, compromise safety and would not meet state design guidelines, thus jeopardizing the federal and state funding.
EALS Coalition, along with a sleugh of others strongly encourage you to reject this question and vote NO on Question #1, because:
We can’t afford to lose the funding. The town is in line to receive $6.8 million to cover the cost of the project. If we delay any longer, we will have to pay for it ourselves. We passed a tax override in 2011 to support a long-term financial plan for the town. Projects like this can break the bank. The town can’t afford to lose this assistance.
We don’t want an unsafe design for Mass Ave. Mass Ave is used by drivers, pedestrians, public transit riders, and bicyclists. The proposed plan will make the street safer for everyone, balancing the many demands on this public resource.
We shouldn’t throw away eight years of public input. The rebuild plan includes wider sidewalks, upgraded lighting and traffic signals, and a greatly improved East Arlington business district, the result of professional planning together with years of public participation. Let’s not start over.
We also recognize the importance of other items on Saturday’s ballot:
Although we do not have any formal endorsements for School Committee and Town Meeting, we did ask all School Committee candidates to answer a question about what they would do, as School Committee members, to promote walking and bicycling to school in Arlington. Their responses can be found at:
Town Meeting Members
There are a lot of good candidates for Town Meeting in Precincts throughout Town. We have not done all of our homework and do not have specific endorsements. However, we do want to give a shout-out to those in competitve races who have volunteered or have submitted a testimonial and photograph on the www.abettermassave.org web site explaining why they want to move the project forward–not kill it. They include:
- Precinct 3: Jennifer Susse, John Hoppe and Laura Vanderberg
- Precinct 5: Sarah Huber (24 Amherst St.)
- Precinct 7: Phil Goff and Rebecca Younkin
Every year we ask a question of those running for school committee, the question and responses from each of the candidates is below:
As you may know, the East Arlington Livable Streets (EALS) Coalition is a neighborhood-based advocacy rganization founded in 2008. We advocate for a more holistic and sustainable transportation system and streetscape design
that balances the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders with motorists.
We are reaching out to all the School Committee candidates with a question. If elected to school committee, what would you do to help promote walking and bicycling to school to promote the health of our children and our
Response from Judson Pierce:
Thank you for your email. I am pleased to have participated in the Dallin Walk to School Day Celebrations each of the last few years. I play my sax and former School Committee Member, current Selectman, Joe Curro played his harmonica. We entertained the kids and their parents as they walked to school!
I would continue to do more of this outreach and talk about the importance of it in School Committee meetings and with the parents I see on a regular basis.
Any other questions please email/call me
Response from Michael Buckley:
I have said may times since staring this campaign for School Committee that our children are our most important investment and that every dollar invested responsibly in their education is one more dollar invested in their future. This includes a future that promises intellectual as well as physical fulfillment. Therefore, we must think of every way possible to make sure that our children not only have access to the schools and classrooms of the 21st Century, but have the parks, bike paths, playgrounds, roadways and recreational facilities that will mitigate or prevent the health challenges that many of our children face today as well as those that will arise if more is not done.
As a member of the school committee, I would work in conjunction with the Board of Selectmen in pushing for these measures. My argument is that it may cost a little more today, but the money, not to mention the problems it would save us, are immeasurable.
As an educator, I have alway prided myself on being proactive. This includes having vision and the will to carry out that vision.
if elected in April, I will work diligently and honestly with any group or organization that is willing to help our children so they do have the chance for a bright and promising future.
Response from Kirsi Allison-Ampe:
Hi East Arlington Livable Streets,
I fully agree that walking and biking to school promotes the health of our children, and to promote this I mostly plan to continue doing what I’ve already doing:
I try to be a good example: I walk with my younger daughter to Stratton; my older daughter walks to school every day (a mile each way) even in bad weather; we walk into town or for errands as much as possible.
I’ve worked to promote pedestrian safety via infrastructure: I requested a pedestrian sign at Summer & Washington in 2009; I’ve reported broken walk signals and unsafe intersections; I supported the bike-to-school initiative, and I continue to work on bus service improvements, since I feel they are an important adjunct to car-free or car-light living.
I’ve worked to promote pedestrian safety via snow removal. As a School Committee member, I’ve pushed the school administration to improve snow removal on crucial pedestrian areas such as the Hardy sidewalk along Lake St, the long stairs at OMS, and the Mountain Ave sidewalk at Stratton. On a personal level our family has put in a lot of effort clearing sidewalks at corners, sanding icy stretches, and shoveling critical sidewalk areas so that all kids can walk safely to school.
I also attended the Master Planning session at Town Hall and spoke up for walking and biking to businesses and to school.
Thus far many of my efforts have been expended on the west end of town, since that’s what I know best. The many hills here have made walking more of a focus. In the future I will continue to support other community efforts such as yours to promote pedestrian and biking safety, including along Mass Ave, as well as working with our other town officials to improve things such as the Park Avenue crosswalk by the Water Tower. In my ideal world, all of Arlington would become pedestrian and biking friendly.
Paul Schlichtman Response:
Thanks for writing.
When I came onto the school committee in 2001, I was a proponent of the Safe Routes to School program. Arlington was one of the first two municipalities in the US to participate in the program, and Arlington’s success enabled the program to flourish across the country.
SInce then, the town and school department have worked to add sidewalks, signage, and other safety features around our schools. We need to continue to make progress every year, and work with the Traffic Advisory Committee and the selectmen to make Arlington a safer place to walk.
Our new student assignment plan has buffer zones that include Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington. Ottoson students from East Arlington are encouraged to use the MBTA bus to get to school. For that reason, we need to make it safe to cross the avenue, and I support a NO vote on Question 1 – for a safer Mass. Ave.
There have been some issues with the reliability of the westbound 77 and 79 bus during the morning, making it less attractive for students heading to Ottoson and the high school. We need to continue to work with Rep. Garballey (who came to our assistance) and the MBTA to ensure sufficient reliable service to encourage our children to use public transportation.
I would also encourage the selectmen to increase enforcement of laws that promote pedestrian safety, including requirements to stop at crosswalks, bylaw requirements calling for the shoveling of sidewalks after a snowstorm, and parking regulations pertaining to bus stops, crosswalks, and parking on sidewalks.
hey all – by now, we assume all of you know about ballot question #1 related to traffic lanes on Mass Ave. Though non-binding, the referendum is a very real threat to the Mass Ave Corridor plan. Arlington could easily lose our $6.8m in federal and state funding if a majority ”yes” vote to question 1 is the result of April 6th election. WE MUST DEFEAT THIS QUESTION.
As such, EALS is working with the committee for A Better Mass Ave (ABMA), formed specifically to defeat Question 1. ABMA has raised enough money to design and purchase signs to be held at polling stations on election day and at high-traffic locations throughout the week. We also have flyers to hand out and will do a limited mailer.
In short, for us to be successful, WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!! Please let us know if you are interested and when you are available (plus your phone number). The greatest need is for folks to volunteer to hold sign for one or two hours between 8am-8pm next Saturday April 6at the 10 polling sites throughout town.
We also need volunteers for Friday evening before election day and people to hold signs during AM or PM rush hour in the Center or at Capitol Square next Tues, Wed or Thurs.
Email us at email@example.com
EALS is proud to announce that “A Better Mass Ave Committee” has launched www.abettermassave.org to showcase the breadth of support the project has amongst our community. As those of you who were in attendance at the DOT hearing at Town Hall last month can attest, Arlington is more unified than ever in wanting to see the corridor project move forward.
Unfortunately, Eric Berger, Maria Romano and other project opponents are trying to make sure this project never happens by placing a non-binding referendum on the April 6 ballot (Saturday, 8am-8pm) that asks Arlingtonians whether they prefer to maintain four lanes on Mass Ave “as currently practiced”. Though non-binding, a strong majority “yes” vote could encourage MassDOT or FHWA to delay the project indefinitely and give the Federal and state funds to other local communities. This would leave Arlington to pay for any improvements ourselves or start fighting for future funding again. We can’t let this happen and residents across Arlington are working hard to encourage a NO vote on Question 1, including Kevin Greeley’s re-election campaign for Selectman. Join us!
How you can help this week:
- Visit the website and forward to your contacts
- Contribute YOUR statement of support to www.abettermassave.org Be proud, not shy! Send via email with a few sentences, street name, and a photo which we will crop appropriately
- Please donate…the campaign is in high gear but requires resources. Even a small amount would be helpful, but $100 or $250 even more so.
If you are able to donate, please do so soon as we need to plan purchases (mailings, stamps, etc) in the coming days.
Snail mail is the only way, checks only to:
A Better Mass Ave Committee
58 Alpine St
Arlington MA 02474
Let’s do this Arlington!
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.