The following opinion was submitted by the East Arlington Livable Streets (EALS) Coalition:
A nonbinding referendum on Mass. Ave. that has qualified for the April ballot will have no effect on the design of the street because the measure “comes after the design has been decided and tries to fool people,” according to an East Arlington neighborhood group.
Chad Gibson, one of two cochairs of the East Arlington Livable Streets (EALS) Coalition, said of the referendum that “the design process is over” and there is no reason to revisit the number of
travel lanes in the Town’s Mass Ave Corridor Plan.
He also called the wording of the referendum, which asks for four lanes on Mass. Ave., "bait and switch," charging, "it promises four lanes but in reality would remove popular safety improvements from the new design, which is the real agenda.
"The pedestrian safety islands, dedicated turning lanes, and safer and shorter crosswalks of the new design would not be possible, because there is not room for them and four traffic lanes," he said.
"Neighbors finished a lengthy design process and strongly support the plan’s many safety features," according to EALS Cochair Phil Goff.
"An honest referendum to undo that work -- rather than just a trick question about four traffic lanes -- would not stand any chance at all."
The first of dozens of public meetings to redesign Mass. Ave. was held in October 2008. Although aspects of the project have been controversial, public comments at MassDOT’s April 2011 design hearing supported the safer design by a wide margin.
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.
This opinion was published Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.