Lake Street/Bikeway Public Meeting - Oct 17th, 2017

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Adam Chapdelaine provides an overview of the proposed minuteman/Lake street project.

  • 2014. TAC begins their study of the intersection.
  • 12/2014. TAC study concludes.
  • 2/2015. TAC recommends the additional of a traffic signal at the Minuteman and Lake Street, coordinated with the signal at Brooks and Lake. The Board of Selectmen asks TAC to conduct a simulation of a coordinated traffic signal.
  • 6/2015. TAC conducts the simulation. An Arlington public safety officer directs traffic at the minuteman, coordinating with the traffic signal at Brooks Ave.
  • 2/2016. TAC reports the results of their simulation to the board of selectmen. They again recommend a signal at the Minuteman and Lake Street.
  • 1/2017. Design review committee formed.
  • 7/2017. Public presentation of 25% design plans.

The town is still figuring out how to fund the project. They intend to apply for complete streets funding, but this will likely not be enough to cover the complete cost of the project.

The next speaker is Jason Sobel, from Green International Consultants (the project designers).

The main concerns we're trying to address are: safety, and a high volume of traffic from all modes of travel. Our goal is to have a safe, predictable crossing for all users of the intersection - pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. The 75% plans presented this evening try to incorporate feedback from the last public meeting.

The scope of the project includes

  • New traffic and pedestrian signals at the bikeway and Brooks Ave. These signals will be synchronized.
  • ADA compliant sidewalk ramps
  • Rebuilding this sidewalk along a portion of Lake Street. This will be necessary in order to install cables, so the two sets of signals can be synchronized.

Lake Street has a posted speed limit of 30 mph with a 20 mph school zone limit. The entire project falls within the 20 mph school zone. Green International suggests the installation of variable speed limit signs (which can show 30 or 20 mph as appropriate), along with speed feedback signs.

There will be bicycle and pedestrian signals on the Bikeway intersection, in addition to traffic signals. There will be separate pedestrian and bicycle lanes, with signage to direct users to the appropriate lane. The bike lanes will be seven feet wide, with green pavement markings. Pedestrians will have a 12-13' crossing width. The median will be scored concrete.

There are plans to add bike racks and light fixtures to illuminate the path (but without causing light pollution to abutters).

Pedestrians will have push signals. There will be a video detection system for cyclists, autos, and pedestrians. Green International has chosen not to use loop detectors, since they're unable to detect certain types of bicycles (i.e., bicycles with carbon frames).

Signals at the Bikeway and Brooks Avenue will be coordinated. There will be different timings for different times of day. Off-peak times will not be coordinated, so that the system can be more responsive to traffic. Vehicles on Lake street should not have to stop at both intersections. We don't expect to make Lake Street completely free of traffic congestion, but the area between the signals should be kept clear. The bikeway will get a green light at approximately the same time as Brooks Avenue.

We move into the Question and Answer section. There are a lot of public comments, and a fair degree of concern about the project.

Comment: The primary issue here is cyclists not slowing down at the intersection. What will make cyclists slow down and comply with the rules of the road?

Comment: Will the town put a "cyclists dismount to cross" sign at the intersection? I'm also concerned about the HAWK signal at Mass Ave and Swan Place. That signal hasn't worked out very well. Will this increase commute times?

Cyclists don't need to dismount at trail crossings, unless they want to be treated as pedestrians. That's the rule throughout the state, and we don't want Arlington to be different. TACs study estimated a 20 second average delay for pedestrians and cyclists.

Comment: During non-coordinated times, will the red lights be visible across both intersections? Will this shift traffic backups?

Red lights should be visible across both intersections. There will be slightly longer traffic queues heading toward Mass Ave.

Comment: This plan doesn't do anything for safety. My solution is to create obstacles for cyclists. Stopping the cyclists will alleviate the problem.

Comment: How are the pedestrian signals coordinated between the Minuteman and Brooks Avenue?

I'm concerned that the path is too wide. The video detectors won't work. I don't like the aesthetics of the design.

Comment: I appreciate the measures to slow down traffic. The crossing functions pretty well down. I'm concerned that less traffic backup will encourage more drivers to use Lake Street. I think the project is inconsistent with complete streets funding.

Comment: My neighbors are concerned about traffic backups (on Lake Street), which cause people to cut through side streets. I like the design. Have there been decisions on the height of the signals?

We plan to use standard 8' traffic signals.

Comment: I'm concerned that we haven't addressed the high speed on Lake Street. 30 mph is too high.

We spent a lot of time discussing speed limits. The speed of traffic on Lake Street applies to the whole corridor, not just these two intersections.

Comment: Visibility is poor when driving down Lake Street toward Mass Ave. Will the project do anything to improve this?

Yes, we plan to trim vegetation, to improve visibility.

Comment: How will this help people on Brooks Ave.

A lot of this traffic is cut through traffic. The signal coordination should alleviate this somewhat.

Comment: I'd encourage you to think about removing the new traffic signals from this project. The town can't manage the traffic signals it already has. This project is intended to improve vehicular traffic, and it does very little for pedestrians or cyclists. It should not be a complete streets project.

Comment: What throughput will be increased the most? I'd encourage you to install a raised crossing instead of traffic signals. What will be the signal time for cyclists?

Our primary goals are safety, and a predictable and orderly crossing. We expect a 70 second signal cycle for cyclists. The majority of this cycle time will be given to automobile traffic. We spent a lot of time discussing raised intersections, but concluded they were not beneficial to this project.

Comment: The minuteman bikeway fills a dual role. There's recreational use, but it's also a major part of our transit network. Is a 23-second delay long enough, especially during rush hour traffic?

The pedestrian cycle time is based on walking 3.5 feet per second, which is a slower speed than the standard 4 feet/second. 23 seconds gives 14 seconds of walk time, plus 9 seconds for pedestrians to clear the intersection.

Comment: I hate everything about this project. I'm flabbergasted at the lack of traffic improvements. Accidents are rare at this intersection. I don't believe this should be a complete streets project.

Comment: The more you slow down traffic, the more you encourage cyclists to blow across the intersection. You're encouraging cyclists to speed.

Comment: Thanks for your work on this project. I appreciate the design, but I think the application is incorrect. The problem is traffic on Lake Street. That's a regional traffic problem. Increasing vehicle speeds on Lake street will only increase the severity of accidents.

Comment: What tradeoffs were discussed with school speed limit signs? Lake Street is too narrow to narrow any further. A raised intersection is not deemed to improve safety.

Comment: Elements of this design were proposed three years ago. I'm skeptical about how effective they'll be. I'm also skeptical about the use of complete streets funding.

Comment: Don't we have a 25 mph speed limit in town? The design looks great. We have a behavior problem, both with drivers and cyclists.

The town has a 25 mph speed limit by default, but that doesn't apply where other speed limits are already posted. Lake Street has a posted 30 mph limit.

Comment: How will this system behave when Lake Street is completely gridlocked with cars? If the bikeway intersection is gridlocked with traffic, will the signaling system be smart enough to let cyclists through?

Comment: I agree that the intersection needs work. Have you attempted to model cut-through traffic?

TAC evaluated this, along with doing traffic counts. They expect small backups, but an overall improvement on Brooks Ave.

Comment: The crosswalks at the intersections of Brooks and Lake are pushed back. Is this a concern for wheelchair users? Will drivers stop ahead of these crosswalks, or will they stop right on top of them?

The crosswalks were designed to accommodate ADA-compliant ramps. But we can discuss how close to the intersection they're situated.