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.