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 Friday April 18, 2014 |  1:13:09 p.m.

Critics, supporters battle over Corridor documents via news releases

Mass. Ave. Corridor logoIn advance of Feb. 26 hearing

The East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee (EACCC) says in a news release that an analysis of the Mass. Ave. Corridor project shows traffic flow worsening in 2028. The East Arlington Livable Streets (EALS) Coalition says the increase is 26 seconds.

Each view was expressed in separate news releases.

A letter the group opposed to project cites quotes a project director: "The results show improvement in the operation for bicyclists in the eastbound and westbound directions with the pedestrian operation not significantly affected by the project."

YourArlington has requested a copy of the analysis and the letter from Eric Berger, a longtime critic of the project. He sent the release Feb. 18.


Feb. 18: Analysis: Review of 2011 hearing shows strong support


Berger not responded. On Feb. 19, an alert reader pointed out that both are on the town's website. See the analysis and the Feb. 13 letter. Both are .PDFs.

The EACCC release has three headlines:

"Arlington Engineer Analysis Reveals Controversial Mass. Ave. Corridor Project Will Cause Traffic Delays"

"'Build' Analysis Shows No Improvement to Pedestrian Operation, Car and Transit Bus PM Peak Travel Times Increase by 22% eastbound, 20% westbound"

"East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee says flaws in Analysis Mask Even Worse 'Build' Operation Results"

These headlines may accurately reflect the news release, but to have a better idea about the overall picture, one should read in full the documents cited.

In January, Berger declined to provide the full copy of a document portrayed in an EACCC news release alleging collusion. 

Full text of EACCC news release

Here is the full text of the Feb. 18 news release (previous estimates of project cost have been reported at $5.8 million to $6 million):

"The EACCC has acquired a copy of a "Multi-Modal Analysis" of the Mass. Avenue Corridor reconstruction project produced by Fay, Spofford & Thorndike (FST), the town of Arlington's design engineer. This analysis was performed at the instigation of the Federal Highway Administration, Massachusetts Division (FHWA). This $6.8 million taxpayer-funded Corridor Project, proposed for Mass. Ave. in East Arlington, has been touted by Arlington officials since its inception as necessary to improve pedestrian operation.

"EACCC has obtained a letter sent to MassDOT's chief engineer, Thomas Broderick, by John McVann, director of project development of FHWA Mass. Division, regarding FST's multimodal analysis.

"In his letter dated Jan. 23, McVann writes: 'The results show improvement in the operation for bicyclists in the eastbound and westbound directions with the pedestrian operation not significantly affected by the project.'

"FST's multimodal analysis shows traffic flow worsening from present day under a '2028 Build' scenario. McVann notes 'an increase in travel time of 59 seconds per vehicle (22% increase) traveling during the PM peak period in the eastbound direction' in 2028 if the project is built as designed, and 'an increase in travel time of 34 seconds per vehicle (20% increase) traveling during the PM peak period in the westbound direction.'

"'This increase in travel time "would affect the operation of the transit bus riders in this corridor,'" writes McVann. These increases are significant given that the entire project is slightly under one mile in length.

"McVann also raises a question as to 'the completeness of the analysis with respect to fully quantifying delay to vehicles merging from two lanes to one lane going westbound on ... Massachusetts Avenue and to additional delay introduced to vehicles traveling in a one westbound lane due to turning vehicles at unsignalized intersections,' such as vehicles taking left turns into driveways or side streets.

"McVann writes, 'As can be seen from the results of the multimodal operation analysis of the Urban Facility, the currently proposed alternative would introduce delays to vehicular and transit traffic compared to a No-Build alternative.' And, 'In light of the results of the multimodal analysis of the operation of Massachusetts Avenue, public input should be sought to ensure the preferred alternative reasonably accomplishes the purpose and need of the project.'

"MassDOT has scheduled a Public Hearing on this project at the instigation of FHWA to be held at the Arlington Town Hall Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7 PM.

"EACCC charges, in its email sent to FHWA on Jan. 7, 2013, that FST's multimodal analysis 'is replete with flaws and misrepresentations" which, if corrected, would reveal traffic flow and pedestrian mobility are even worse than FST's analysis shows, and the $6.8 million corridor project design falls shockingly short of the Town's stated goals."

Full text of EALS news release

Headlined "Benefits of Mass. Ave. design far outweigh costs, says neighborhood group" and issued Feb. 19, it is a statement of East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition. Cochairs are Phil Goff and Chad Gibson, longtime project supporters.

"A new traffic-analysis software package that fails to model all the benefits of the current three-lane design nonetheless finds a three-second improvement eastbound, and only a 26-second delay westbound, compared to a four-lane design in 2028, but only from 5-6 p.m. on weekdays."

The summary of the modeling and analysis presented in MassDOT’s Dec 13, 2012, and Feb 13, 2013, memos to FHWA is shown below:

 

Eastbound travel end to end

 

Westbound travel end to end

“No build”, i.e. the status quo

 

270 seconds

 

167 seconds

Current 3-lane plan

 

329 seconds (59 s increase)

 

201 seconds (34 s increase)

Hypothetical 4-lane plan

 

332 seconds (62 s increase)

 

175 seconds (8 s increase)

The EALS release comments on this chart:
"26 seconds for one weekday hour in 15 years is a small price to pay for safer pedestrian crossings, state and federal funding, wider sidewalks in the heart of Capitol Square and other benefits of the three-lane design that would be precluded by an unnecessary fourth travel lane.

"For both the current three-lane and hypothetical four-lane designs, the model shows that the additional delays come from existing and proposed traffic signals, both which make the street safer and/or were requested by the community. It’s worth 26 seconds to keep safe crossings at the Teel/Thorndike and Linwood intersections."

The release continues:

"Furthermore MassDOT has consistently said that Mass. Ave is not wide enough for four lanes, turn lanes and appropriate bicycle accommodations and that a four-lane design would fail to meet the state’s design guidelines intended to improve safety."

A note to editors and reporters from EALS says a Jan. 23 letter from FHWA cited peak future delays, from the untested software model, of 34 seconds eastbound and 59 seconds westbound compared to the "no build" status quo in which nothing is done at all. Since the street is deteriorating, "no build" is not a choice, and the relevant comparison is to a modeled four-lane option.

MassDOT’s Feb. 13 reply to FHWA cites that comparison, which found that both three- and four-lane options were similar: Both produced delays, probably because of the additional signal at Bates Road.

MassDOT noted that the proposed design was three seconds faster than the four-lane design on the critical inbound route, and 26 seconds slower westbound, in 2028, during the evening peak.

The agency in its reply further noted that there are travel-time improvements in the town's design that "are not reflected in the multimodal analysis [the software model]. This includes the benefits of keeping bicyclists out of the main travel lane and providing much more space for buses to pull over without blocking traffic."

The EALS Coalition, founded in 2008 to advocate for safer streets and better quality of life, claims more than 400 direct members and supporters.

In addition to its work to make the Mass. Ave. design safer, the group has lobbied the town to fix broken street lights and repaint crosswalks, held educational events, promoted walking and biking to the Hardy School, and erected a sign on the Minuteman Path promoting Capital Square businesses.


Related links to Mass. Ave. project:

Word on the Street, Feb. 3: Yet another public hearing || Key claims questioned, Feb. 4

Globe, Aug. 8, 2009: Eric Berger's cause | E. Arlington Concerned Citizens (Part 2) | Livable Streets Coalition | Town project information


This story was first published Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2013, and updated to add the EALS release.

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