Waltham Transportation Update, May 17, 2016

I (John Allen) attended the Waltham Transportation Update in the evening of Tuesday, May 17.

The Transportation Update was in three parts. The first was an “open house” with 18 large plan drawings taped up on the walls of the auditorium at Government Center (119 School Street). These drawings illustrated the city’s consultant’s plans for changes at numerous locations in Waltham. These drawings should be posted soon on the Web page of the Traffic Engineering Department, but were not yet posted as I write this on May 18. Proposed changes are extensive and will take years to complete.

The presentation was by representatives of the consulting firm. Highlights included:

  • Suggestions for managing parking in downtown Waltham;
  • Numerous intersection improvements with updated traffic signals, curb ramps and curb extensions;
  • Sidewalk improvements and construction of some new sidewalks;
  • Reconfiguration of the residential section of Lexington Street as three lanes with a center turn lane and bike lanes;
  • Reconfiguration of the Winter Street oval as a single roadway;
  • Reconfiguration of Carter Street (past the downtown Commuter Rail station) to favor bus and taxi access.

There was much more, which will be viewable when the plans are posted.

I regard the consultant’s work as much weaker as it relates to bicycling. There were several proposals for bike lanes (notably on Lexington Street), but:

  • No mention at all of the Rail Trail, which will be a major transportation artery for bicyclists, or for that matter of paths along the Charles Rvier, or any others;
  • A really bad proposal for a two-way shared-use path alongside hilly Bear Hill Road. This would have 30 mile per hour downhill bicycle traffic crossing driveways and mixing with pedestrians and uphill bicyclists.
  • No mention of making traffic signal actuators work for bicycles except to put one in a bike lane at Vernon Street and South Street.

Following the consultant’s presentation, there was a question and answer period. I was first with comments:

  • I commended the consultant’s work on intersections.
  • I indicated that the Rail Trail needed to be integrated into the planning.
  • Appropriate treatment for Bear Hill Road would be a bike lane in the uphill direction and shared-lane markings in the downhill direction.
  • There are several “missing link” connections which can be made at low cost, for example, one which is currently in informal use between Bishop’s Forest and the neighborhood off Forest Street; and another improving the dirt path which is the unimproved section of Old County Road, connecting with the office park on Winter Street above the Cambridge Reservoir.
  • All traffic-signal actuators should sense bicycles.

There were other commenters — specifics included making a connection between the 1265 Main Street development and the office park north of it, off Totten Pond Road. However, I had to leave early and did not hear all of the comments.

But you can get to hear them all, and maybe some of the the small group sessions which followed. The meeting was recorded in video. and was shown today, May 18, at 2:13 PM on the Municipal Access Channel. It will be shown again at noon on Sunday, May 22, but it is also available on demand over the Internet, in high definition yet! Go to one of the air times on the MAC Channel schedule page, find the meeting and click on “Watch Now.”

Update, June 3 2016: To view the video of the May 19 Transportation Master Plan meeting, just click here.

There is a 30-day period for written comments.

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