Public Works: Fate of Main St & illegal sidewalk parking to be adressed; updates on paving & Rte 9

Above: The Town isn’t done looking at parking problems on Main Street. (image cropped from Google Maps)

There are a few news items worth sharing related to Southborough Public Works. The most notable is a scheduled update on the Main Street project, asking selectmen to address sidewalk parking.

Main Street project and parking

Have you been wondering what the fate of the Main Street project will be? Join the club.

Town officials have yet to publicly respond to how they will move forward after voters rejected pursuing easements. That should change on Tuesday night. And the discussion is likely to address illegal parking on Main Street sidewalks.

An update on Main Street by DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan is on the agenda. The memo she submitted in preparation reveals that the future of the Main Street project is very much up in the air. Galligan says the state has yet to make a decision about kicking the project off the “TIP” list.

The memo outlines projected costs for other options. She explained that a previous repaving estimate of $925K, quoted at Town Meeting, is inadequate for a main road with Main Street’s volume.

She upped her figure for a simplified Town project to $2.25 million. A project similar to the planned TIP project, but without easements, would cost $5.3 million.

Galligan’s memo also advised selectmen to address sidewalk parking:

The issue has been brought up at several public meetings. . . and identified as a safety hazard. I am concerned that doing nothing to correct this will be a liability for the Town.

Some project opponents were against losing the parking spaces along a stretch of the street. Meanwhile others, especially the Main Street Design Working Group, argued that there is no legitimate parking there.

Working Group Members pointed out that, while police have turned a blind eye, parking on sidewalks as illegal. And the group argued that near Middle Road, the impacts to site lines make it especially dangerous.

Repaving of Town roads

Last week, the DPW posted news that repaving projects on Town roads have begun. Four roads were listed as scheduled to start this past Tuesday and Wednesday: Eastbrook Farm Road, Stub Toe Lane, John Matthews Road and General Henry Knox Road.

There were no details on future projects. But residents of roads to be repaved will be notified in advance by letter.

Route 9 repaving and water main work

Southborough Wicked Local recently posted an update on Route 9 road work planned for Southborough. A $4+ million project is slated to begin construction next spring. Work will cover about 1.5 miles between White Bagley Road/Breakneck Hill Road and the Framingham town line.

The Town’s project to replace the water main along that stretch should be completed this summer. For details, click here to read the article.

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Alison Craftsman
6 years ago

Three points. Cost, sidewalks and Middle Rd.

1. The DPW cost estimate (for a small-scale “Local” repaving option) has grown from $925,000 to $2.25 million. Ask yourself – does DPW have a vested interest in making the local option as costly as possible, to justify the years of work on the State option? Also, nothing has been spent on this section for decades.

2. Parking is LEGAL on the south side. The white line on the street is NOT the edge of sidewalk. It is the edge of the drive lane. Therefore it is legal for cars to park over this line, provided they leave space for pedestrians. It only becomes illegal if the car is parked too far over, so that it obstructs pedestrians. One sign could notify drivers of this.

(Look at the sidewalks the town recently built along Boston Rd and Woodland Rd. The sidewalks have about 3 ft clearance from poles to walls/lawn, which is enough space for a wheelchair. The poles were not moved. The poles are immediately behind the granite curbs).

3. Middle Rd exit. The issue of safety is caused by blocked view of traffic. More sight distance is needed. This can be provided by eliminating parking on the corner.

What’s next? It is predictable that DPW will fight the local option, which Town Meeting voted for. But do we want DPW to design our downtown? This is a streetscape project, affecting Town character. It is not a typical road design. Much of the State project was included because of State rules. The State does not care about our character. It wants more traffic volumes.

You can predict the next DPW argument – that lack of full safety provided by a State project will be a “liability”.

Al Hamilton
6 years ago

Allison

I think you can safely assume that the State Funded Main St project is dead. Town meeting drove a stake through its heart.

Now the only question is what are we going to pay for.

Alison Craftsman
6 years ago

Al.
I appreciate that you think “you can safely assume that the State Funded Main St project is dead.”.
But many others think that your Committee’s project, (the proposed Public Safety Facility), which is scheduled for a Fall Town Meeting, may not be the only item to be voted upon at that Town Meeting. The word is that some Selectmen want Main St to be brought back again, for a new vote.

Al Hamilton
6 years ago

You may be right, I have no special knowledge. I can’t imagine that they have the stomach for that fight but stranger things have happened.

Edwin W.
6 years ago

Maybe we could have a bake sale to raise funds for the project.

southsider
6 years ago

I know my cost of living continues to rise but how on earth could the Main Street paving estimates have ballooned from $925k to $2.25million in such a short time?
I’m assuming huge scope changes but don’t understand how there could have been such a misunderstanding. Hopefully, the new estimate has more features included in it than we actually need.

John Butler
6 years ago

The explanation given in the video is a departure from the written statement from Ms. Galligan of April 2014 which I referred to at Town Meeting. In her written statement there is no mention of any need for, or description of, additional reclaim above the $925,000 price. There is a list of add-ons that are not included for $925,000, but additional reclaim is not among them. Here is the key text of Galligan’s email to me from April 2014. As for why no one “rebutted” me at Town Meeting, perhaps it was because no one wanted me to read her email, which I offered to do at the meeting, if anyone doubted my statement.

Ms. Galligan’s email to me: “If I was to put Route 30 in the contract, I would reclaim from Sears Road to East Main Street. I would install granite curbing in front of all the sidewalks, overlay or remove and repave the sidewalks, (because of the amount of traffic on the road, the private schools, the day care centers and the Library, I would not repair the sidewalks on Main Street without a vertical curb). I would have to adjust the drainage structures, connect the existing drain outfall to Fay School (because the mechanism exists and under the new storm water rules we can’t discharge like we currently do right there), fix the existing drainage structures, replace the existing drain lines (they are corrugated metal), try to fix the Library’s drain, add driveway aprons where needed and loam and seed behind the sidewalks. The total for that work, including police details, based on the costs in the last contract and estimates for some of the work, would be about $925,000” -4/11/14

People can draw their own conclusions about why this written statement then, and now an estimate that some may find frighteningly large. However, as sanity check note that we appropriate about $250,000 each year for road maintenance and with that annual cost to the Town’s taxpayers we maintain 67 miles of road. You can drive down that section of main street and ask yourself if that 1.5 miles of road looks so different from some of the other 67 miles of road that somehow it has to cost such a huge amount, or is someone trying to sway your vote.

Lastly, if you want to focus on cost consideration, know that if the $7 million Federally supported highway project is put through our downtown, then 100% of the cost overruns of that project fall to the taxpayers of Southborough with no ability to modify the project to reduce overruns. That’s the law. So you can choose between fix the road, controlling our own costs as we go, or be left holding the bag on all the overruns on a highway project with zero ability to control costs at that point.

Understand that the #1 reason why I oppose enlarging Main Street to meet Federal Highway standards is that it takes people’s private property to make our downtown into an ugly sea of asphalt, but I don’t like anything about the economic risks either.

M
6 years ago

John,
Thank you. The content of Ms. Galligan’s email to you totally fits with the impression that I orignally had from viewing her video. All of the items listed were described visually by Ms. Galligan in the video as important problems that her repair would address. She further outlined the larger state proposal and expansions. So perhaps some people were confused by the two different scenarios.
Does anyone know, or perhaps Ms.Galligan would please reply herein, as to how the various costs of her original proposal have incresed? Not just a total, but specifically what items have increased? We would all like to understand this ballooned new amount of $2.25 million.

Steve Phillips
6 years ago

According to the DPW Superintendent’s recent letter to selectmen dated May 10, the town currently has almost $1.1 million in State-provided Chapter 90 funds on hand which are not allocated for other purposes, and we receive a new allocation of Chapter 90 funds each year. With proper phasing of this project over time, there is no reason to believe that we can’t maintain this stretch of road within our existing Chapter 90 budget, and any responsible examination of this project should address the question of which funding sources are available for each alternative, including normal maintenance of Main Street.

As a comparison, we have already spent almost $750,000 of Chapter 90 funds just on design costs for the TIP project, with lots more spending to come once we enter the detailed design phase and begin to purchase easements. The TIP project will cost us as much money as it would have taken to maintain this road normally, all for the sake of a massive and disruptive roadway project which we would never have designed this way on our own. This is the very definition of a boondoggle.

We all agree that safety is a top priority for our roads and sidewalks. I think it’s important that this discussion should be based on facts rather than anecdotes or speculation. For example, much has been made of safety issues at Middle Road. However, according to the police department’s computerized records, in the 10-year period from November 2005 through November 2015, our police department responded to 3 motor vehicle accidents at the Common Street and Main Street area, and 3 accidents at Middle Road and Main Street.

The current design of Main Street approaching the common area from either direction naturally encourages drivers to slow down, and the reduced speed can be the difference between a major accident and a fender-bender. Are we really sure we will be making the Middle Road intersection safer if the TIP project results in increased speeds as anticipated? I’m even more concerned about faster traffic entering the bottleneck at Mauro’s from the west, an area which is already a hazard to pedestrians. We need to be very careful about making blanket assumptions that the TIP project is going to improve overall safety in this area as compared to normal maintenance of Main Street.

Finally, on the issue of parking, I live directly on Main Street where I have a daily view of pedestrian and auto traffic. Every day I see a vibrant neighborhood full of foot traffic and visitors who park along Main Street. For example, at a recent community gathering to save the Burnett home, I counted 16 cars parked just along a short section of Main Street from the Community House going eastward. Parking in this area is utilized every day, not just for special events, and pedestrians have access to sidewalks along both the North and South sides of the entire section of Main Street east of route 85. Compare this to the State-maintained section of route 30 west of Sears Road, which has no sidewalks and almost no shoulders in many areas, yet was recently repaved by the state without any improvements for pedestrians. And yet the downtown section with two sidewalks is the area which is unsafe?

The sidewalks on the downtown section of Main Street have been severely neglected for well over a decade, and any resurfacing of the sidewalks will result in significant improvements for pedestrian safety. If we choose to maintain Main Street normally, we should take a good look at how to balance parking and pedestrian access to make sure that our downtown area is both safe and convenient. However, I am baffled by the DPW Superintendent’s argument that all of the parking on Main Street which has been legal for the past 60+ years is suddenly such an urgent liability concern to our town that it must be abolished overnight. Is this liability concern an issue on roadways throughout the town, or only in the areas covered by the TIP project? And why haven’t we been concerned for the past 10 years about our liability for slip-and-fall accidents on Main Street caused by our neglect of the sidewalks?

em
6 years ago

Today while driving I stopped on Middle Road on the corner with Main Street. As I prepared to make a right onto Main Street, I could not make the turn without stopping directly in the crosswalk. I tried very hard not to stop in the crosswalk, but it was not possible. It was around 1:00 PM, and there was only one car parked on Main, about 45 feet to the west. It (a sedan) completely blocked my sightline of the eastbound lane of Main Street/Rt. 30. Imagine if it were a busier time of day or more cars were parked there; making the turn would have been more treacherous. It is an ancedote, yes, but could it be that few accidents are reported there because pedestrians avoid the area at all costs? I know I do. I think it is safe to say that feared “liabilities” as mentioned by Ms. Galligan would be accidents involving pedestrians, as they are the most devastating and likely to result in someone suing the town. Of course, ironically and perhaps conveniently, the best way to sink a project that would improve safety for pedestrians is to make the area so hostile to pedestrians to begin with (by promoting parking on walking paths and forcing vehicles to block crosswalks) that there will be so few people interested in fighting for walkability. For the NIMFY folks who want to “preserve their neighborhood’s image exactly as it was when they purchased their homes, er, I mean, rural character of Southborough,'” the shouting about STATE HIGHWAYS! and LOSING LOCAL CONTROL! comes across as at best disingenuous and at worst manipulative. But, as long as nothing changes about the road…

Steve Phillips
6 years ago
Reply to  em

So neither you or any pedestrian were in the slightest danger of getting into an accident, and the nearest parked car was 45 feet from you, yet you imagine a theoretical scenario where an accident could have possibly occurred if a car or pedestrian had suddenly appeared out of nowhere? This sounds like the exact definition of using anecdote and speculation in place of actual facts. The reality is that the police department has responded to a total of three accidents at Middle Road and Main Street in the past 10 years, plus another three accidents at Common Street and Main Street.

Although Mr. Butler does not live on Main Street, I make no secret of either my name or the fact that I am a Main Street resident. Our home has survived in its current location for 201 years now, and my hope is that it will continue to be preserved as an antique property for many years to come. I make no apologies for fighting to achieve that goal.

Alison Craftsman
6 years ago
Reply to  em

em

It seems you have not looked at the State/Federal highway plan, because that plan has new parking spaces on Main, west of Middle Rd, some distance west from the intersection. Therefore cars in those future parking spaces will still block sightlines, exactly in the manner you described today, when you say a car was parked 45 ft west of the intersection.

Would you agree that the State plan is not safe? Bear in mind that the speed will be faster with the State Plan, because the road is wider and straighter. Would you agree that more speed results in less safety? Could we agree on a slower speed limit ?

M
6 years ago
Reply to  em

em, With the Main St. plan, I believe the widened road would have caused your car to stop further back on Middle Road and on an incline. Your sight line would be blocked by Dr. Stone’s house. Your ability to stop and see would be worse, and stopping on the incline in snowy weather even more difficult. I guess you would still need to get up on the sidewalk and bikepaths to make a turn. Perhaps they should consider making Middle Road a one way street for safety’s sake and folks could travel down and around to make an entry onto route 30 at Parkerville.

Frank Crowell
6 years ago

Has the Historical Commision done their part yet. Maybe they can have the road from Sears Road to E. Main labeled a historic street and preservation funds can be used to re-pave only.

Edwin
6 years ago

We should just get back to the basics. Dirt Roads. Nice and simple, it’s historical and easy to work with.

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