Main Street Design Group releases findings: Recommended changes and areas of dispute

by beth on June 18, 2014

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Above: In response to concerns the original traffic study was outdated or insufficient, new data was collected this spring from six points around the Main Street project area. (Image from new Traffic Study)

Last night, the Main Street Design Working Group presented their findings to the Board of Selectmen. The group was in near consensus with each other, but not always with the plan.

The draft final report broke the project into 14 geographic segments. Most of these were supported by the group, but with recommended changes. (Click here for the report.) One of their most consistent requests was inserting grass between the curb and sidewalk.

The one segment that the group would not support was Route 85 South from Route 30 towards Woodward School:

The impact to the Community House property and to the aesthetic quality of that corner, and the intersection overall, is significant. . .

The current proposal would remove the entire line of mature trees on the Community House property along this stretch of Route 85. The effect on the appearance of the property and on the area generally would be severe and are not acceptable. Options explored included a) moving the sidewalk to the east side of the trees, b) replacing the sidewalk with an unpaved path, c) narrowing the overall footprint of the roadway to avoid impacting the property and the mature trees, and d) eliminating the proposed sidewalk on the east side of the roadway entirely.

The segment on which the group could not reach consensus was the area of the Common, Pilgrim Church and the Library on Main Street.

  • Proponents supported the design as providing improved safety at the intersection, improving appearance of area, and acceptable trade offs.
  • Opponents were against eliminating the green space on the east end of the Common, reducing parking on Common Street, and trade-offs to create a 90° turn from Main Street to Common Street.

One specific dispute was the necessity of providing seven parking spaces to the west of Middle Road.

Surprisingly, the group supported (6-1 ) the inclusion of an eight lane intersection at Routes 30 and 85. This has been a element of controversy in past public discussions.

The group did express reservations about the appearance. They recommended the design be revisited in future phases. Their hope is that it could be modified to reduce impact to the aesthetics, especially of the Community House corner.

However, they supported the inclusion of four left turn lanes. Members first deemed that two left turn lanes were necessary for safety. They were then convinced that eliminating the other two lanes would reduce safety while having “a minimal effect (shrinking) on the footprint of the intersection.”

That opinion was not unanimously shared by selectmen last night. Most vocally, selectman John Rooney questioned how the intersection would improve traffic given projected increases. He said the footprint would nearly double. Meanwhile, an 8% increase in traffic flow capacity would be negated in about 10 years.

Member John Wilson responded that improving traffic flow wasn’t his concern. He wanted to eliminate risky driving behavior such as drivers shooting across as lights change.

The report details the concerns residents have shared about the project and the group’s findings/opinions on each issue.

Selectman Bonnie Phaneuf recommended that the document be adopted and submitted to Massachusetts Department of Transportation for responses. Cimino and Rooney voiced support. Chair Bill Boland recommended they wait until the final version of the report to vote on that. The group plans to submit a final “cleaned up” version.

More surprising (to me) than any report results was the lack of turnout to hear it. This leads me to believe that many are waiting until tonight to make their opinions known directly to the MassDOT.

In the past, selectmen have expressed concern that residents objecting to the project could derail it. Between the 25% plan and construction slated for 2017, the town would need to approve some property easements. That would require a 2/3 approval by Town Meeting voters.

If MassDOT administrators believe that may not happen, the project could be removed from the Transportation Improvement Projects list. The TIP covering FY17 is in a public comment period through July 7th.

The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization is scheduled to vote on the TIP on July 10th.

The Working Group isn’t done working. The group term is until June 30, 2015. Selectmen Paul Cimino encouraged that as the project moves forward, the group should remain involved “bird dogging” it.

1 Paul Cimino June 18, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Hi Beth, I must correct the very last line of your story above.

You wrote “Selectmen Paul Cimino encouraged that as the project hopefully moves forward, the group should remain involved ‘bird dogging’ it.” It is very important to note that I said “whether” and “if” the project moves forward, and I never said “hopefully” at any time. This is no small distinction in the context of this project, so I appreciate clarification. For those viewing the replay on Southborough Access Media, my comments in this respect appear at 1:15:15 — 1:16:25. Thank you.

Paul Cimino

2 beth June 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM

You’re correct – I’ll remove hopefully.

3 Chris June 18, 2014 at 8:29 PM

I’m genuinely appalled when I read that the concerns with making some necessary changes to the community house corner would affect the aesthetics….if Southborough was genuinely concerned with the aesthetics and beauty of the downtown area, they would do something about Mauro’s, etc. It is legitimately the ugliest downtown amongst any community in the metrowest. Yet we’re concerned about a 20 ft section of grass and trees at the corner of 85/Rt 30.

A lot of misguided energy trying to stop a worthy attempt at finally making Southborough’s downtown remotely functional.

4 SouseBro June 19, 2014 at 1:35 AM

I find it interesting that when a similar project was proposed for the intersection of 85 and Southville Rd. due to the construction of the train station, nary a word was said, and certainly not an uproar such as this. What with the condos on Middle, up the road in Hopkinton, and the station, at times Southville is a mini Mass Pike. This intersection re-build is a God-send. I also think it is an excellent idea to eliminate the sidewalk on the East side of 85N from Woodward to Main, no need for it…

5 SB Resident June 19, 2014 at 10:08 AM

I’m just curious if someone knows, if we eliminate the sidewalk on the east side, is there still one on the west? If not I thought I once heard that there is a law that all roads within some distance of a school must have a sidewalk.

6 beth June 19, 2014 at 10:40 AM

The fact that there will be a sidewalk on the west side is one of the arguments made by the Working Group to defend elimination on the east side. They also offered alternatives, like an unpaved path, if it is necessary to also have something on the east side

7 SouseBro June 19, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Isn’t there still a paved sidewalk “cutting thru the woods” from Woodward up to Main St.? I’m sorry SB Resident, I misspoke They want to eliminate a new East sidewalk from the plans, .not an existing one. How many of us have parked at Woodward and walked up to Main St. on the grass buffer to attend Heritage Day and parades with no safety issues? When they remove the stone wall at the corner to put in the new lane, just rebuild the stonewall a bit farther back and continue the grass buffer up to Main St. In my 60 years in town, I’ve grown up with those trees. After all the mini-mansions and commercial bldgs. being built in recent years, it’s a must to drive visitors up 85, past the cemetery, see the flags on the telephone poles, the community house and library and those grand old trees just to prove that yes, we really are a small historic town…

8 Doc D'Errico June 19, 2014 at 7:18 AM

I’m amazed that the selectmen would consider left turn lanes at the intersections of routes 30 and 85. After all the effort to dismiss the LTE “flagpole” antenna as not fitting within an aesthetic and also deciding not to remove the trees, this is an aesthetic that will turn the intersection into basically an under blown highway.

Why wasn’t simply better traffic control considered? Anyone who lives in the area or traverses it knows that the problem at the intersection is not an all-day/night problem, rather it’s during rush hours and school pickup/dropoff at Fay. An alternative would be to keep the single lanes and simply install better traffic control – one that would operate the lanes independently (north, then south, then east, then west, for example), perhaps even during select hours, say 7am to 10am and 3pm to 6pm, leaving a normal 2-way operation (north/south, then east/west) for other hours.

Frankly, it’s 2014 – if the system is intelligent enough, it could even operate 2-way, inserting necessary delays in one-way operation if it senses traffic congestion.

I would expect that the costs of such an intelligent traffic signal system would be far less than the proposed reconstruction.

9 JMO June 20, 2014 at 4:35 PM

Finally someone with a reasonable idea. I just don’t understand the need for all the turning lanes. It will ruin that intersection. Traffic backups are for such a short period of time. It’s not as if the area is jammed all day long. Why not try something that is cost effective and sensible before making the intersection looks like it has been strip-mined and wasting a lot of taxpayer money.

10 Just Curious July 14, 2014 at 9:31 PM

Doc brings up a good point re the traffic issues related to the parents of Fay kids who are dropped off. During the summer camp period, these parents just fly out of the Fay lot and barrel through town.

Perhaps our excellent police department (I really mean it) would be kind enough to pull over a few of these wack jobs speeding through town and deliver a message to the Fay summer camp parents.

Just ask Craig at the barber shop about these nuts speeding through town. You take your life in your hands crossing Rt 30 in front of Mauro’s each morning.

11 Ann June 29, 2014 at 10:13 PM

Wicked Local Southborough has an article of interest, including a wonderful picture of the Henry Knox trail marker with the Community House in the backround. Very historic.
“Hiding in plain sight:Revolutionary-era markers abound in MetroWest” is the title. Posted June 28th…………worth the read

12 Jake Walter July 12, 2014 at 9:03 PM

I like Doc D’Errico’s comments about the traffice “control” at the Rt 85/30 intersection. The big congestion is only a very small part of the day and I think we are doing “way too much” talking and planning for such a minimal (timewise) problem. Seems like the solution could be a lot more simple and less costly. JJ

13 Concerned_resident July 17, 2014 at 11:57 PM

Great posts! I also agree with some of the less aggressive ‘traffic / public safety’ solutions discussed above (Thanks Doc). You know, its not too late to make real changes to the scope of this project. I mean, step back and look at how recent proposed changes will impact the aesthetics of our lovely town:
– eight combined lanes in the four corner intersection
– cutting down trees to accommodate sidewalks on all sides… (we’ve gotten by pretty well with just a western side walk Rt 85 Northbound… why expand to both sides now)
– just too much concrete for my liking

equally important is the moving the historic rock walls and of course the unrelated but equally troubling Garfield House ‘tear down’/McMansion property development…. what a veiled attempt to squeeze $$$ out of a ‘one-of-a-kind’ historic property.

We are on the verge of losing a huge part of what makes Southborough a quintessential New England charming town….. As Joni Mitchell said “they’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

Wake up!!!!!

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