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Greeley to ask board to discuss but opposes measure

A longtime critic of the Mass. Ave. project in East Arlington has asked the Board of Selectmen to place a question on the ballot for the April town election asking voters whether the major roadway should have four travel lanes.

In a letter to Selectmen Chairman Kevin Greeley, Eric Berger asked for this ballot question: "Shall the Town have four vehicular travel lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington as currently practiced?  Yes___    No___"

Asked to comment, Greeley said in a telephone interview, Sunday, Oct. 21, that he expects to place the issue on a future agenda.

Speaking for himself because he has yet to discuss the matter with other board members, he said he is "1000 percent opposed to" voting in favor of putting the issue on a ballot next spring. He said the Mass. Ave. project has had "more oversight than any project with which I have been involved in 24 years" as a selectman.

Berger responded to Greeley's comment Monday, Oct. 22, writing, "The amount of town initiated public outreach about the project has been virtually nonexistent and woefully inadequate for years, violating fundamental requirements for such outreach by the DOT."

He wrote that except for three public meetings in 2002, there was not any public outreach event about the project scheduled by town officials for the Arlington community for six years until the DOT required two public outreach meetings in the fall of 2008 and one early in the winter of 2009.

Berger wrote at some length about this issue. YourArlington has invited him to post the full comments at the link below this story.

In the letter to Greely, Berger enclosed a petition he said was signed by more than 10 Arlington voters that proposes the nonbinding question be put on the ballot for the April 6, 2013, election.

He declined to provide the names of Arlington voters who signed the petition.

Last February, selectmen rejected a similar ballot question related to the Mass. Ave. project.

Berger included a letter to Thomas Broderick, chief engineer of the MassDOT Highway Division, from Gregory Cohen, a professional engineer and president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance. Berger describes Cohen as an expert on highway design and safety.

Berger cites this part of Cohen's letter: "Safety is the highest priority for my organization, as I'm sure it is for yours. There are glaring safety problems that present a danger to the public if the Massachusetts Avenue project were to continue with the current design in place."


Claims "adverse effect."

"Make no mistake about it," Berger wrote, "that roadway design will have an adverse effect on all the users of the corridor, including the bicyclists, especially those bicyclists who venture forth unwittingly from the safety of the Bikeway onto the perils of riding in a bike lane on the heavily trafficked corridor that has been dangerously narrowed.

"The most serious adverse effect occurring will be the injuries and fatalities from traffic accidents caused at least to some significant degree by the corridor roadway design. Those injuries and fatalities are foreshadowed when Mr Cohen wrote, as cited above, "There are glaring safety problems that present a danger to the public.

"If the officials of our Town move ahead with the current roadway design in the face of this dire warning and others that have been raised regarding public safety, if they knowingly take this risk, if they gamble recklessly with the safety of its residents without the benefit of fool proof, comprehensive, and first rate data guaranteeing that there isn't the slightest risk that this roadway design will undermine public safety in any way, then our officials will inexcusably open our Town to any number of expensive and damaging injury law suits funded by Arlington's taxpayers."


Leaf-blower issue linked

Berger's letter to Greeley turned briefly to the leaf-blower issue.

"We very recently witnessed the consequences of acting without asking residents regarding the leaf blower ban, resulting in having a special election to tabulate the vote. Reversing a road reconfiguration after it is built in the wake of thunderous opposition, an opposition that seethes in our Town now and will roar into public view should the bulldozers show up to remove that westbound travel lane, is far more expensive and politically damaging than reversing a bylaw.

"I encourage the selectmen to provide Arlington voters an opportunity now, before any attempt is made to cram the removal of that westbound travel lane down the throats of our residents, to participate in democracy on this vital issue, something people in the Middle East are dying to get.

"Please know that in the over 10 years of discussion and planning of this corridor project, Arlington residents have never been polled by the town in any accurate way on this fundamental question of the removal of a westbound travel lane and the subsequent narrowing of that roadway with no left turn lanes traveling west until Lake Street.

"There has been no Vision 2020 Survey or a ballot question on the issue, for example, even though the one mile corridor is a crucial part of the main highway in Arlington serving our entire community, especially the thousands of users (estimated at 98%) who travel on it daily in these modes of transportation: automobile, transit bus, truck, motorcycle.    


Seeks agenda item

"Please let me know when this proposal for a ballot question will be placed on the agenda of a meeting of the Board of Selectmen."

Greeley has been asked to comment about that.

Berger's letter of request refers to Part 1, Title VIII, Chapter 53, Section 18 A of the General Laws of Massachusetts.

YourArlington received a copy of Berger's letter, as did editors for The Advocate and Patch.

The letter was copied to Thomas Broderick, Steven Byrne, Joseph Connors, Joseph Curro Jr., Ken Donnelly, Daniel Dunn, Sean Garballey, Thomas Janikula, Donna Janis, Mark Kaepplein, Andrew Levin, Diane Mahon, Laura Nastasi, Maria Romano, Michael Rothemeyer, Kimberly Sloane, Robert Sprague, Walter Smith, Cynthia Tollen, and John Waller.

Carol Kowalski, town planning director, has said that bids for the work from Pond Lane to Alewife Brook Parkway are expected to be advertised next spring, with work to begin next summer.

This story was published Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. It was updated the next day with Greeley's comment and on Oct. 23 with Berger's response.