Saturday, February 23, 2013

For local (Arlington, MA) readers: critical meeting for East Arlington Livable Streets

For local readers, this blog has occasionally covered the work of the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition, a community group that has been supporting the planned improvements to Massachusetts Avenue through our neighborhood.

A critical public meeting will be this Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7:00 pm at Arlington Town Hall.  Please come out to share your views on a healthy transportation plan for all members of the community.

The Massachusetts Avenue redesign will include better pedestrian crossings, sidewalks, benches, bus stop spaces, and bike lines. For a number of reasons, the redesign is likely to improve automobile traffic too. For example:
  • It might seem that a bike lane takes space from automobile lanes, but really it is easier for cars when the bikes are not in the car lane. 
  • It might seem that wider bus zones would take space from the automobile lane, but really the full-sized bus stops allow buses to pull all the way out of the traffic lane, so they don't have to block cars while letting people embark and disembark. 
  • It might seem that 3 auto lanes in place of 4 in some stretches would clog traffic, but really the total automobile traffic volume is regulated by the traffic lights at either end of the neighborhood (at Route 60 and Alewife Brook Parkway), so the extra lane for cars does not really help traffic. 
Truly the engineers of the redesign have done a terrific job in planning for the needs of pedestrians, bikes, and automobiles all together.  They have been highly responsive to public input.  The current plan is a good compromise for everybody who uses the avenue.

Unfortunately, a Washington DC lobbying group called the American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA) has been helping to generate opposition.  They have written an awful misleading letter to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.  Just reading the letter, you can tell they have never even been here, but instead are relying on second hand information from local lawyer Eric Berger, a long-time opponent of the plan.  There is a serious risk that a small group of well-funded opponents will be able to divide our community and thwart years of planning with extensive community input. 

I feel that our community has a big chance to make some improvements that meet our own needs and hopes for our most important street.  But we need to turn out to be heard and counted on Feb. 26.

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