The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) held a community meeting on October 21 regarding the Arborway Parkway Improvements project.
The project, which is now being carried out by design engineer Howard Stein Hudson, has been in the works for several years, but has never come to fruition.
More then 200 people registered to be a part of this community meeting, and three alternative design proposals were presented for the Arborway.
Before delving into the design alternatives, DCR Deputy Chief Engineer Jeff Parenti talked a little bit about some short-term improvements that are currently in the works for the corridor, including sidewalk repairs, which is said are now “winding down,” as well as pavement marking plan, which he said has been revised based on feedback. Once the edited plan is approved, he said the hope is to have that project completed before the winter.
Nate Lash of Howard Stein Hudson gave an overview of the timeline for the larger project, saying that in the spring of this year, the team met with elected officials and community stakeholders, then in the summer, there was a virtual public meeting where public comment was collected, and site walks with community stakeholders were completed.
In June and July, the project team received 515 public comments related to the project, and learned what people like and do not like about the Arborway as it exists now. He reported that people like the existing mature trees and green space, as well as the Arborway’s connection to parks and other desirable areas. People were concerned about speeding, the safety of cyclists, and the lack of crosswalks in certain areas.
He said that the comments received largely matched the shared goals of the design team as well.
Bob Stathopoulos of Howard Stein Hudson said that there were other safety issues on the Arborway, such as “short merging and weaving areas, multi-lane pedestrian crossings with no signals or beacons, unmarked travel lanes for Murray Circle, confusing geometry,” and others, according to a slide presented at the meeting.
He also said a road safety audit was completed in 2019 that outlined safety issues along the corridor.
Amy Ingles of Howard Stein Hudson gave some examples of “potential crossing treatments” that could be used on the corridor, including raised crosswalks, rapid flashing beacons, bicycle conflict/intersection markings, refuge islands, and more.
She also explained that the landscape plan is similar for all three alternatives.
Matt Jasmin of Howard Stein Hudson went through each of the proposed alternatives, and explained that Alternative A included two circles, Alternative B included two, and Alternative C has no circles.
According to the presentation, all three design alternatives would have things like “speed management, channeling through traffic into the Main Barrel and away from the carriageways, maintained access for carriageway abutters, overall increases in green space and street trees, safe, comfortable, and convenient bike and pedestrian facilities and connections, easy access to two-way separated bike lanes and/or shared use paths, enhanced pedestrian and bicycle crossings, [and] new lighting and signal equipment for all facilities and users.”
He then explained the details of each of the proposals, and talked about public feedback that had been received about each section of the corridor. People support the historic nature and the trees and green space that the Arborway offers, but speeding and unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bikers were common concerns at each portion of the Arborway.
More details about each alternative and what it would achieve can be found at https://www.mass.gov/doc/arborway-design-alternatives-flyer/download.
Many people were wondering if elements of a certain alternative could be merged with another, which the team said was definitely possible. They are looking for very specific feedback from residents about which elements they think would work best, so they can create a solution that works for the most people.
Residents then asked questions about specific parts of the proposal as well as made suggestions. One resident advocated for separated bike lanes instead of shared pathways, because she said that “cyclists do not prefer to bike right next to traffic,” and instead, prefer to ride near trees and pedestrians. She also suggested good lighting over the pedestrian/cyclist corridor.
Jasmin said that the team is planning on updating the lighting for both pedestrians/cyclists and motorists along the entire corridor, while still making sure it is appropriate for the surrounding residential area.
Another resident said he was “grateful” for a proposed raised crosswalk at St. Rose St., as he believes that area is currently unsafe with gravity pulling vehicles down the hill at faster speeds.
Questions about parking also came up, and Jasmin said that parking will remain on the western side of the Arborway.
Trees are also a huge consideration for many neighbors, and Jasmin said that with construction to happen so close to mature trees, it is important to not injure them, and he said the team is “trying to limit the stress and hazard to existing green space.”
Following the public meeting will be a public comment period, and Jasmin explained the rest of the project timeline moving forward, which involves presenting the preferred alternative and selecting the final design, with construction to begin in 2021 and last two years, pending coordination with utilities.
The public comment period will last until Friday, November 6, and the team is in search of very specific feedback from residents about all aspects of the project, including feedback about what would work best for cyclists along the corridor.
Feedback can be shared in several ways: by using the interactive online map at hsh.mysocialpinpoint.com/arborway, by submitting a written comment online at www.mass.gov/dcr/public-comment, or by submitting a written comment by mail to Arborway Parkway Improvements, c/o Howard Stein Hudson, 11 Beacon Street, Suite 1010 Boston, MA, 02108.
More information about the project as a whole can be found at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/arborway-parkways-improvement-project.