Transportation Advisory Committee - May 19th, 2020
Held via video-conference.
Administration. The committee approves minutes from January 8th and February 12th.
The committee received correspondence from Joanne Preston regarding traffic calming on Chestnut Street. There was a pedestrian fatality at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Chestnut Terrace. The letter asks the committee to look at Chestnut Street between Mystic and Medford Streets. The committee will assess the intersection.
(Joanne Preston) Ms. Preston states that Mystic street has been considered dangerous for a long time. The entire street is problematic, and she'd like to have it studied. 100 seniors live in Chestnut Manor. She would like community input. Ms. Preston has spoken with the police chief regarding the traffic fatality, and large-scale traffic calming measures. The select board sent a study proposal to TAC, suggesting the committee study the street. She'd also like people to be involved.
North Union at Norcross, Wellesley Road. The committee took these two items together. They could generally be categorized as "traffic around Thompson Elementary School". Leah Broder gives a presentation.
Ms. Broder contacted TAC regarding North Union Playground and how it interfaces with North Union Street. The issues are school and pedestrian safety on North Union and Everett Streets. Obstacles make it difficult to see children. River Street is also a dangerous area. There are no stop signs on North Union, or on Everett Street.
Wayne Chouinard notes that North Union has a radar sign and several crosswalks. These aren't shown on Ms. Broder's slides.
Ms. Broder feels that the entrances to the school deserve the most attention. Parking is allowed at the school entrance, and there are no crosswalks. She asks about removing the parking there. She'd like to see the crosswalk at North Union located closer to the park entrance. There are 515 kids at Thompson Elementary, so pick-up and drop-off are congested.
Wayne states that painted crosswalks are supposed to indicate the safest points to cross. However, pedestrians can cross at any point, painted or not.
Scott Smith mapped the crosswalks when the Thompson School was built. There is one area that's a candidate for a no parking zone. There've been discussions with the school about making Everett and North Union one-way streets.
Ms. Broder feels that speed, congestion, and traffic enforcement are all issues. This area probably requires a suite of solutions.
Laura (didn't get the last name) says that the safe route to schools program has a suite of tools to evaluate cases like this. Their tools could help here.
Dan Amstutz feels that double parking during arrival and dismissal contributes to the visibility problem.
Ms. Broder says there's a lot of bike commuting to school, which adds another element. She thinks a raised crossing at North Union and Norcross might be beneficial.
Howard Muise states that some of these concerns came up during the park design. It's probably better to look at traffic calming around Thompson school, rather than just focusing on one or two areas.
Wayne suggests doing traffic counts and speed studies.
Jeff Maxtutis suggests collecting data, but it may be a while before we can do that (due to COVID-19).
Steven Wofsy points out that several intersections have crosswalks painted on two sides, rather than all four. Drivers don't realize they're supposed to give pedestrians the right of way. He asks why crosswalks are only painted on two sides.
Wayne believes the town can't paint crosswalks at every intersection. There's a set of criteria for the installation of a painted crosswalk, along with maintenance requirements. Spreading people out among multiple crosswalks isn't as effective as funneling them through a smaller number of direct routes.
There's a general discussion about how kids walk to the Thompson school from locations in East Arlington.
Ms. Broder asks about the process for engaging the Safe Routes to Schools organization. Laura responds, saying the school principal is considered a client. The organization has coordinators that work with the schools.
Wayne asks if the schools can communicate these issues to parents. The parents are largely responsible for causing the traffic congestion.
Mr. Maxtutis says that Arlington has been involved with the Safe Routes to Schools program since 2001.
(Stepped away for a minute)
Brian Ristuccia suggests that Ms. Broder might coordinate with Thompson's safe routes to schools volunteer. It's really helpful to have a parent championing the issue.
Mara Vatz talks about the school entrance on Everett street. The only way to get to the back of the school is by going through the park, and she believes it's a very cumbersome route. Parking is allowed on both sides of Everett street, and that effectively makes it a one-lane road for two-way traffic. The area needs systematic changes.
Mr. Muise believes that TAC has a good group to look at these issues, but he's not sure what the committee can do this year.
Wayne says that the loading zone area lacks sidewalks. There's a flow issue to address. More curb cuts for sidewalks mean less room for parking; that's a tradeoff.
Scott Smith suggests the working group meet before school starts in the fall.
The town planned a neighborhood meeting on the topic of making Wellesley Rd a one-way street. A meeting notice was sent in March, but the meeting had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 emergency.
Appleton St, Appleton Pl, Mass Ave. This agenda item comes out of the recent fatal crash, where a driver made a left turn into a pair of cyclists. One of the cyclists died.
Wayne Chouinard says this intersection was studied several years ago. There was a proposal for improvements, which would have cost $2m in 2012.
Dan Amstutz says the CTPS study incorporated a lot of data. There have been several bike and pedestrian crashes at that intersection, and that's what motivated the study. He's not sure why there wasn't any follow-up work done. Perhaps there were bigger priorities at the time.
Scott Smith agrees that this area is an issue. It's a tricky intersection.
Mr. Amstutz says the sustainable transportation plan consultant mapped crash data in Arlington. There were 11 crashes recorded at this intersection. Ten involved automobiles, and one resulted in a fatality.
Mr. Maxtutis agrees that the intersection is challenging, with numerous safety issues and poor sight lines.
Wayne says that DPW did road work on Appleton and re-aligned the HCA ramp. He wonders if that might have helped.
Kristin Pennarun says that her husband and two kids witnessed the accident. They travel through that intersection frequently, and pedestrians are often confused about when to cross. The intersection is particularly dangerous and needs to be re-thought. She thinks that crash data is great to have, but that it may not tell the whole story.
Wayne asks what time of day the accident occurred. It was around 6pm.
Ms. Pennarun feels that further study should be done after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Wayne believes we need a good strategy for choosing locations and making improvements.
Mr. Maxtutis wonders if complete streets funding could be used for improvements at this intersection. Wayne suggests reviewing the list of complete streets projects. Len Diggins suggests pursuing improvements independently of the complete streets program. Dan Amstutz points out that this stretch of Mass Ave has a number of challenging intersections.
Steve Revilak commutes east on Mass Ave each evening, on a bicycle. He's had two incidents at the intersection of Mass Ave and Appleton. The first was a minor collision, where a driver struck his rear tire while making a left turn. There were no injuries and no damage. The second was a near miss with a truck turning left off of Mass Ave. Mr. Revilak provided video footage of the near miss to Mr. Amstutz and Mr. Muise, and encourages them to share the footage with the committee. (note: the video footage is available at https://archive.org/details/mass-ave-close-call-on-a-bicycle). He hopes we can make safety improvements to this intersection.
Marc Colosimo heard the female cyclist. The two cyclists were heading east on Mass Ave, and were struck head-on by a driver making a left hand turn. There are visibility challenges in that area. The intersection was laid out in 1924, before much of the town had been developed. People frequently cut through side streets to avoid this intersection.
Anne Donato saw part of the accident reconstruction. Glare may have been an issue. She asks if there's a process for suggesting low-cost fixes.
Wayne feels that low cost fixes for that intersection don't exist. The geometry is terrible. A curb extension to shorten the crosswalk might help.
Mr. Amstutz notes there's a lot of unmarked pavement in that intersection, which may lead drivers to go wherever they want.
Mr. Smith notes that the Bicycle Advisory Committee is meeting tomorrow night. He's been taking notes and will summarize them for the bicycle committee.
Brian Ristuccia is a daily bicycle commuter. The whole 1100 block of Mass Ave is difficult. There are no bike lanes and traffic tends to move at a high rate of speed. There are lots of crashes, including cars driving up onto the sidewalk. Drivers tend to take that left turn at speed, which creates the risk of severe crashes. Anything to sharpen the left turn and slow drivers down will help. It's difficult for people to cross that intersection. He advocates for short-term mitigations while a long-term solution is developed.
Mr. Colosimo wonders if all of the turns taken at that intersection are legal. The intersection pre-dates cars, and it wasn't planned for them.
Wayne asks if the committee is interested in forming a group to work on short term mitigation. According to Mr. Muise, the Select Board hasn't approached TAC about this intersection. He'll consult with the town manager. We can definitely form a working group, if there's a desire to get TAC involved. We have recent traffic counts for this intersection, and counts taken in 2012. That could help us in formulating a way forward.
(The committee moved on to the next agenda item, and I left the meeting at this point).