A light to control traffic on Lake Street where the Minuteman Bikeway crosses, in the works for three years, is moving toward reality.

Selectmen voted, 4-0, Monday, Feb. 22, to endorse a report of its Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) favoring a light there.

Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013

Many potential issues, including "unintended consequences" cited by Phil Goff of the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition, are expected to be addressed during further committee work on a specific design of the light.

"Just what we're looking for," Selectman Joseph Curro Jr. said of the lengthy report presented by TAC Cochairs Jeffrey Maxtutis and Howard Muise. The latter said that, anecdotally, bicycle riders appeared to favor a signal.

Goff reported a diversity of opinion about the light from EALS members, including concern and skepticism.

'Unforeseen consequences'

In an email to members this week, EALS pointed to "potential unforeseen consequences" of the proposed new signal.

"While we understand and can sympathize with the key goals -- reducing the long traffic queues along Lake during PM peak and reducing cut-through traffic in Kelwyn Manor -- there are potential trade-offs that need to be considered." The email cited:

-- Increased traffic speeds when drivers see "two greens" on Lake, especially during off-peak periods when there are few traffic back-ups;

-- Potential conflicts between Minuteman bicyclists having the green light to cross Lake and pedestrian cross traffic (especially Hardy School students) along the sidewalk on Lake;

-- Moving the bottleneck from the dual Minuteman/Brooks intersection to the Mass. Ave. signal, encouraging commuters to cut through the neighborhood near the Hardy School to avoid delays at the Mass. Ave. signal, which currently are minimal; and

-- Smoother traffic flow on Lake could induce traffic away from the Rt. 16 bottleneck, leading to a net increase in traffic volume.

At the selectmen's meeting, Scott Smith, long active in transportation matters in town, said he was skeptical three years ago, but now favors the current plan.

Some of TAC report details

Among the details of TAC's report are these reporting crash data and some conclusions:

-- Data for Lake Street between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2015, showed town police responded to a total of 82 crashes. The vast majority were at Lake and Mass. Ave.

-- Fourteen of the reported crashes on Lake occurred at the Bikeway crossing. Two at the Bikeway involved pedestrians. No crashes at the Bikeway involved a bicyclist.

-- Five crashes resulted in personal injury; seven involved property damage only. "It appears that the most common crash occurring at the Bikeway involved cars stopping for either cyclists or pedestrians crossing Lake and getting rear ended," the report says.


-- To measure the potential impact of a new signal at the Bikeway crossing on operations and safety, new transportation data were collected in the study corridor between Thursday, June 4, and Friday, June 19, 2015. Arlington Police officers simulated a traffic/pedestrian/bicycle signal at Lake and the Bikeway crossing between Monday, June 15, and Thursday, June 19, from 4 to 7 p.m. Traffic, pedestrian and Bikeway volumes and delay for the weekday PM peak period were compared for the current condition (without police control) to the simulated traffic signal condition (with police control). The study findings include:

• During the weekday PM peak hour (4:45-5:45), Lake experiences from 1,100 to 1,200 vehicles per hour.

• Almost 400 users on the Bikeway cross Lake during the PM peak hour on a weekday, an average of more than six persons crossing every minute.

• Traffic volume on northbound Lake at Brooks Avenue during the PM peak period (4:30-5:30) was 10 percent to 15 percent higher with police officer control.

• Bikeway users crossing Lake with police officer control during the weekday PM peak period experienced stopped delay between 0 and 40 seconds, with an average delay between 15 and 20 seconds per crossing.

• Vehicle travel times on Lake between Route 2 and Mass. Ave. during the weekday PM peak period were about 4 minutes faster on average with police officer control.

• The vehicle queue lengths on northbound Lake during the weekday PM peak period were similar for both the current condition (without police control) and for the simulated traffic signal condition (with police control). However, with police control the vehicles progressed in platoons versus stop-and-go operation with the current unsignalized condition.

• A new traffic/pedestrian/bicycle signal on Lake at the Bikeway would provide a modest improvement in traffic delay and vehicle travel time during weekday peak hours. During off-peak and weekend periods, the travel benefits to traffic would be less noticeable. Bikeway users would experience a signal controlled crossing of Lake,with average delays of up to 20 seconds.

Selectman Dan Dunn, a cyclist, moved to proceed with the signal, as outlined in the TAC report.

This news summary was published Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.