Mystic River Path to Minuteman Bikeway Feasibility Study - Jun 22nd, 2022

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This was the third Mystic River Path to Minuteman Bikeway Feasibility Study meeting, held via remote participation. Materials were available from

(Stephanie Weyer, Toole Design) Ms. Weyer presents a summary of the feasibility report. Chapter 1 covers the project context. This part of the work was funded via grants from MassTrails and the Lawrence and Olivia Solomon Foundation. Ms. Weyer says the purpose of the study is to determine the preferred alignment, facility types, and safety improvements with the goal of providing an accessible route between the Minuteman bikeway, the Mystic River Paths, and the Alewife Greenway. The study identified three segments and five priority intersections. The priorities were safety, accessibility to nature, and preserving ecological systems.

Chapter 2 presents different trail designs and placement concepts that were considered. In response to town surveys, 87% indicated that they'd use a shared path via bicycle and 78% indicated they'd use it on foot. 88% of respondents favored an asphalt path. 75% supported removal of parking on Summer street, but a third of that 75% felt the parking should be left in place if removal would delay the project.

Chapter 3 presents the recommended conceptual design, and considers parking, bicycle connections, path width, and materials.

Segment A consists of Summer St. Ms. Weyer says the recommendation is for two 10' travel lanes, a 7' parking lane, a 3' buffer, and an 11' wide shared use path. There will be further study on parking.

Segment B contains the portion of Mystic Valley Parkway that runs alongside the lower Mystic Lakes. The proposal for this segment consists of a 12' path, 6--10' of buffer space, two 11' travel lanes, and 2' shoulders. There may or may not be a guardrail between the roadway and the path; DCR will need to do further analysis in this area.

Segment C is the section of Mystic Valley Parkway between the rotaries and the Alewife Brook Parkway. The proposal is to have one-way bicycle lanes on each side of the road. In addition, there would be a bicycle path that varies from 7--11' in width, and a separate path for pedestrians.

(Kristen Braley, Toole Design) Ms. Braley presents the five priority intersections. Number one is the intersection between Summer and Mill Street. The proposal is to tighten the corners to slow traffic down, and reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Number two is the intersection of Summer and Mystic Streets. They're proposing to tighten corners here as well, and to add diagonal crossings for path users.

Numbers three and four are the rotaries at Medford Street in Arlington, and High Street in Medford. The proposal is to convert the rotaries to roundabouts, which have a smaller radius. This is another traffic calming measure.

Number five is the intersection of River Street and the Mystic Valley Parkway. They'd tighten this intersection and add several crosswalks to connect the neighborhoods with the path. This would include pedestrian bump outs.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer continues her presentation with an overview of Chapter 4, which covers project implementation. The recommendation is to perform short term improvements in the first phase. Phases two and three will be long-term improvements done by Arlington and DCR. Arlington and DCR will have to coordinate regarding maintenance of the path.

Cost estimates are $4.5M for Summer Street (Segment A), $2M for the two rotaries, and $7M for Segments B and C.

The presenters want to address some questions that were asked via chat.

(Question) What's the level of service impact for the intersection of Mystic and Summer streets?

(Kristen Braley) Ms. Braley says the diagonal crossing will require a longer pedestrian cycle, but she expects the intersection to be under capacity with a high level of service.

(Question) What's the expected level of service for the rotaries at Medford and High Streets?

(Kristin Braley) Ms. Braley says the operation of these intersections really won't change. They'll still be one circle connected to another circle.

(Question) What about connections to the path from Menotomy Manor?

(Dan Amstutz, Arlington Transportation Planner) Mr. Amstutz says there's already a signalized pedestrian crossing at Decatur Street. He says it's near Menotomy manor, but would require a walk down Gardner St.

(Question) What are the funding sources?

(Dan Amstutz) Mr. Amstutz says the town has applied for additional MassTrails grants. He believes that DCR has additional funding sources they can use.

The presenters open the meeting to questions from the public.

(Tanya B) Ms. B asks what efforts were taken to make sure the survey was distributed to equal bases of interests. She asks about assumptions underlying the questions, and how the questions were established.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says that most of the questions were general to shared use paths, with separate questions regarding materials.

(Amber Christofferson, Mystic River Watershed Association) Ms. Christofferson says that MyRWA distributed the survey via the organization's email list. They also tried to reach out to different groups involved in walking and biking.

(Dan Amstutz) Mr. Amstutz says the town advertised the survey via town notices, and mailed about 200 postcards to abutters along the route. They also did outreach via the Transportation Advisory Committee, Arlington Housing Authority, yard signs, Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, and the Clean Energy Future Committee.

(Petru Sofia) Mr. Sofia asks about bicycle signals for the intersection of Mystic and Summer Streets. He wonders if the diagonal crossing could have shared use markings rather than green paint. He asks about mixing zones, and about having a Dutch-style roundabout.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says they weren't planning to use bicycle signals there, but they'll take a look at the markings. She agrees that there will be mixing -- the design assumes pedestrians and cyclists crossing from one mixed-use path to another.

(Dan Amstutz) Mr. Amstutz says that bicycle signals will be a consideration for the design phase.

(Arshan Gailus) Mr. Gailus has a question about Segment A. Will the on-street lanes be in the existing curb width?

(?) Yes, they'll be in the existing curb width.

(Arshan Gailus) Mr. Gailus asks if they have any information about the number of trees that will need to be removed.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says they didn't get into that level of the detail for the conceptual design, but acknowledges there may be some need for tree removal.

(Jo Anne Preston) Ms. Preston objects to an 11' asphalt path through a section that's now a green area. She asks if it's necessary for the path to be that wide. She asks if there will be room for cyclists and pedestrians. She suggests adding a pedestrian signal at the corner of Hayes Street. She says the house there has had its fence hit by cars eight times. She asks if the designers have considered collaborating with a nearby playground renovation effort.

(Amber Christofferson) Ms. Christofferson says that a wide paved path is important to accommodate a variety of different users. She notes that there are no cycling or walking accommodations on the other side of Mystic Valley Parkway.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says the Minuteman bikeway is 10' wide at it's narrowest points, and that 11' is considered the minimum width for a shared use path.

(Dan Amstutz) Mr. Amstutz says that most of the Minuteman bikeway is 12' wide. He notes that the bikeway is the subject of a separate study effort.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says the travel lane near Hayes street will be narrowed, in order to slow traffic. They've also recommended a flashing beacon for that intersection.

(?, missed name) There's a question about whether flooding was taken into consideration, and if the path will be elevated.

(Amber Christofferson) Ms. Christofferson says the goal is to design the parkland to handle that level of stress. She says the elevations aren't changing.

(Nicholas Tucker) Mr. Tucker is excited about this project. He says the left turn signal for going from Summer to Mill street doesn't detect cyclists, and suggests that may be a simple fix. He asks where the 12' path width in Segment B will come from.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says the roadway curve along the Mystic Lakes will have to move a little.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein says the team has done an excellent job with the design. He says that Mystic Valley Parkway floods every few years, and asks if there will be any remediation to reduce the flooding.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says that some of the drainage will need to be redesigned when the curb is moved.

(Kelly Lynema, Planning Director) Ms. Lynema says that Arlington is working with other communities on broader resiliency efforts, and is applying for significant grants for resiliency improvements.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein says that the entire roadway floods during these events, so it's a bigger scope.

(Phil Goff) Mr. Goff isn't sure that a combined pedestrian and bicycle crossing will work for the intersection of Summer and Mystic Streets. He believes there's a pinch-point in the two roundabouts, if one is heading towards Winchester. He asks for further details about the plans for short-term improvements.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says the short-term improvements are listed on the bottom of each slide.

(Dan Amstutz) Mr. Amstutz says the short-term improvements had a relatively small scope. There isn't a separate short-term improvement plan.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak appreciates the changes to intersections three and four, noting that the roundabout on High Street can be particularly challenging. He says that Segment C captures some of the elements he likes about the Charles River Esplanade in Boston.

(Dan Amstutz) Mr. Amstutz reads several comments that appeared in the chat. Someone mentioned the Bruce Freeman trail as a good example of a paved trail that goes through wooded areas. Another comment involved working with partners on a feasibility study. Mr. Amstutz says there's support within the town for phase 1, but that DCR has to go through their own process for other phases. Another comment is about the rotaries. Mr. Amstutz says that part of the goal is retrofitting an existing bridge with paint, without making any structural changes.

(Amber Christofferson) Ms. Christofferson says there was another question about the level of service at the intersection of Summer and Mill streets.

(Kristen Braley) Ms. Braley expects the modified intersection to be under capacity, and perform similarly to the way it currently does.

(Dan Amstutz) Mr. Amstutz says that redesigning that intersection will include a reconfiguration of traffic signals.

(Arshan Gailus) Mr. Gailus thinks there are some great things about this. An on street bike lane is a great time to reconfigure the street. He appreciates the planting and the goal of preserving trees, but has some concerns about the asphalt path in Segment C. He says one issue is to address bike speed; without doing that, you might lose accessibility for some folks. He asks if there could be other incremental ways to improve accessibility, and if there are ways to gather public input that are more representative.

(Amber Christofferson) Ms. Christofferson understands the concern about speed. She says that some families like to ride along each other, and the path should be wide enough to accommodate that. She expects the path to meander somewhat in that section.

Ms. Christofferson says that surveys are challenging, especially with this being a local and regional connector.

(Andrew Freeman) Mr. Freeman asks if there was any consideration to grade adjustments at the intersection of Mystic and Summer Streets.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says that's mentioned in the report, and the grade will need to be handled.

(Andrew Freeman) Mr. Freeman thinks that a path that's narrower than the Minuteman would feel crowded. He hasn't seen an unpaved bike path that's worth riding on.

(Shirley Canniff) Ms. Canniff says the long crossing at the intersection of Mystic and Summer streets is a red flag for her, especially since it's so close to the community safety building. She says the area next to Buzzell field is very busy with sports teams, and she's concerned about cyclists going by there. She asks if that was considered.

(Stephanie Weyer) Ms. Weyer says it was discussed extensively. She says there can be conflicts in mixing zones, but there are a number of things to slow people down.

(Tanya B) Ms. B has issues with ADA regulations being brought up, when the real issue is fast bike trails. She says it would be good to be clear about that.

Meeting adjourned, a few minutes after 21:00.