On April 6, 2013, Arlington voters confirmed that the majority do not want to sacrifice mobility for landscaping and bike lanes on Mass Ave in east Arlington. This win would have been overwhelming if it were not for a desperate fear and disinformation campaign by the entire Board of Selectmen. They lied to residents claiming funding would be lost if the project is delayed. Projects are often delayed and nearly always without funding loss. Selectmen were unable to back up their claims with any documentation from funding bodies or examples.
Arlington Selectman and state Senator Donnelly are trying to frighten residents into voting against what they want. There is no evidence that a delay needed to fix their bad plan would cost funding, nor past examples of funding loss due to redesign. Read more here: VoteYES4Lanes.org
For years Arlington Selectmen refused to offer a four lane plan for residents to choose from. We have won two important battles to keep mobility for motorists and public transit riders. First, we got a second hearing. Second, we got a ballot question with the help of 3,154+ voters who signed our petition.
Now, its time for people to go out and VOTE!
Typically, only about 20% of registered voters bother to vote in Arlington’s local elections. This time they have a big reason to. Vote Yes on Question 1 to keep 4 lanes on Mass Ave. Question 2 asks if you favor the current overnight parking ban. Our opinion is that some easing is called for, especially in neighborhoods where legacy zoning or stone ledge leaves residents without driveways. Voting NO on question 2 allows residents to begin a dialogue and have surveys on what changes would improve quality of life and which not.
Vote Romano for Selectman! She has been fighting to give residents a choice of what they want on Mass Ave. Greeley has been fighting against offering residents a choice on plans, against polling residents, and against having a ballot question. Voting YES on question 1 and for Romano makes your position clear on Mass Ave., otherwise, the voters message is muddier.
Please ask your friends and neighbors to also vote!
Sadly, the road design we got is not about the greatest good for the most people or the greatest safety, but politics. Letters, plus votes on our ballot question will change the politics in favor of the majority needing more mobility and more safety. Its important to mail letters to MassDOT saying you oppose the 3 lane plan presented.
Whatever else you write matters less, as public comments have had no impact on the project design when they oppose what Selectmen, bicyclists, and the Planning Department want. A count is taken of people/groups for and against, so please write. Letters are counted, not co-signers, so each person should send their own. MassDOT and the town counted the majority of businesses opposing the plan on a letter as one, and seems to have counted, if at all, 3,100 petition signatures against as one, so each person should send a letter. USPS needs the money.
Mail your letter to MassDOT, stating right at the beginning that you oppose the 3-lane plan for Mass Ave and want a 4-lane plan that makes improvements. Some improvements over the current road you might want to request include a left turn lane at Lake Street, lane painting, pedestrian activated high visibility crossing signals at Grafton/Orvis, and elsewhere, better lighting, widening and extending where Lake meets Mass Ave to reduce back ups and cut through, moving the bus stops now at Lake and Winter slightly to reduce accidents, and more than just 100 feet of raised median.
Don’t let Selectmen tell us what we can and can’t have for the town’s main artery. Write MassDOT that you don’t like the lane loss and what you do want. I have a suggested start to a letter below. Then vote YES on April 6 for preserving 4 lanes on Mass Ave! Thanks!
Letters must be received by Tuesday (March 12). Letters need your name and address to count. If you fear retribution, state so and remain anonymous.
Thomas F. Broderick, P.E., Chief Engineer
MassDOT – Highway Division
10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116-3973
Attn: Project Management, File: 604687
< Insert Date >
I am writing in response to the Public Hearing held in Arlington on Febuary 26, 2012 on the Mass Ave Project. I oppose the 3-lane plan, losing a travel lane and mobility, for very little justification. I want to see a 4 lane plan that actually improves the main road our town relies on.
< Your thoughts Here >
<Signature, Name, Address>
Update: A victory for democracy! Question on April 6 ballot!
Opinion question to appear on the Arlington town election in April:
“Shall the Town have four vehicular travel lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington as now practiced?
Yes ____ (or) No ____”
– Urge your Selectmen to approve the ballot question themselves.
– We need 3,500 signatures to force it on the ballot!
– Please sign the petition.
– Ask all your Arlington voter friends and neighbors to sign!
– Get petition forms and ask others to sign them!
Only signatures by voters registered in Arlington MA are acceptable.
All project area businesses will suffer lost business from the two or more year construction disruption on Mass Ave, so some have made petition sheets available for Arlington voters to sign their support for giving residents a choice.
About the petition
The town of Arlington decided to reduce Mass Ave in east Arlington from two operating travel lanes in each direction to two headed east out of Arlington towards Cambridge, and only one headed west into Arlington. The lost width was used to create dedicated bike lanes in both directions and narrow the roadway in some places, mainly to add some shrub planters which residents will have to pay to maintain. There is already a bike path along Mass Ave and another, new one at the Cambridge end along Route 16. Residents were never given a choice in design options or an opportunity to keep the current four travel lanes.
We support democratic principals and free speech. We want people able to have and express opinions. We want their opinions counted at the ballot box, unlike opponents who have opposed the will of the people on both the Mass Ave Project and the creation of a seasonal leaf blower ban. Rather than make another mistake like the unpopular blower ban, we want to record resident opinion before making a $6 Million dollar mistake on Mass Ave. This ballot question costs the town no money, unlike needing a special election to ask residents if they even wanted a blower ban, after town meeting voted to create one.
We urge all voters registered in Arlington to sign our petition forcing a ballot question at the April 6 town election so their voice will be clearly heard and recorded. People who want more traffic congestion can still sign the petition so they get to vote no on April 6. The important thing is that voters get to have their opinion recorded. If Selectmen reject our request for democracy, we need over 10% of all registered Arlington voters (3,000+) to guarantee free speech and this ballot question. Given that Selectmen opposed residents in their special town meeting votes to keep the unwanted blower ban, its likely they will continue to oppose Arlington residents on Mass Ave and other issues.
Keeping four travel lanes is the alternative to having the town’s planned three travel lanes with an added bike lane in both directions. Keeping four travel lanes may remove some space for added shrubs that cost Arlington to maintain. The four lanes will be marked and there is room to have left turn lanes also. All of the traffic signal modernization benefits are still possible. Nearly all of the beautification benefits are still possible as they are not in the roadway!
This is an opinion question not subject to strict legal interpretation – just that people prefer to keep four travel lanes we have used for decades, or they want to replace a westbound one to make bike lanes. When the question goes on the ballot, everyone can vote which ever way they want.
Thanks For Your Support !
Deficiencies were noted by both Federal and Massachusetts Departments of Transportation (DOT) during the summer. No responses from the town to DOT comments are yet available.
The strongest criticisms came from the Federal DOT, the FHWA who wanted more definitive information on the design’s lane configuration popularity among residents and also updated traffic studies produced to current, published 2010 procedures and specifications. The FHWA wanted examples of any and all comments from residents that actually were incorporated into the plan following the 25% hearing. They also advocated having another official public hearing. The town intended to have no more public hearings before starting construction.
Detailed engineering drawings are available on the Arlington, MA town website at:
It is about 95MB large, ill-suited for printing, and requires some study to understand all the engineering markings on it.
Time is running out for keeping Mass Ave an efficient roadway for all users. The two most important things you can do are to run for Town Meeting in one of the many open seats, or as a write in candidate. The other thing is supporting Maria Romano for Selectmen – she will serve the greater good over special interests. Get your candidacy support from friends and family in your neighborhood and voting precinct. Unless more real people join town meeting and pass article 69, our worst nightmare will happen. This is the last, best chance to stop a huge mistake that hurts Arlington and accelerates more replacement of road lanes with bike lanes elsewhere.
Please contact me via gmail as markk02474 and have your voice heard at Town Meeting. Thank You.
The article temporarily puts the project design on hold so the public can reach consensus. Project design is not considered complete until all property and rights of way are held. Article 69 removes the authority of Selectmen to take property or easements by eminent domain. When the project plan satisfies most residents, authority will be restored.
The Selectmen re-titled my article from:
RESCIND EASEMENTS AUTHORITY ON MASS AVE UNTIL RESIDENTS’ TRAVEL LANE COUNT IS HONORED
VOTE/RESCIND EMINENT DOMAIN AUTHORITY MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE SIDEWALKS
the article text is:
To see if the Town will vote to rescind its authorization for the Board of Selectmen to acquire by eminent domain, purchase, or other means, land interests for the purpose of Mass DOT project 604687 on Massachusetts Avenue, authorized by vote of Article 7 of the Warrant for the Special Town Meeting of the Town of Arlington at the session held on May 9, 2011; or take any action related thereto.
The observant may notice no use of the word sidewalk anywhere in the text, yet that is what Selectmen changed to confuse people. Easements can include those needed to replace sidewalks, but are not limited to them. ALL eminent domain taking needed for the project is put on hold, thus putting the project on hold until the project best meets the needs of residents, not Selectmen.
Selectmen removed the second paragraph from the article I submitted to again aid confusion:
Authorization shall be restored by the town for the Board of Selectmen to acquire such land interests up EITHER 1) the amendment of Mass DOT project 604687 plans for Massachusetts Avenue from the Cambridge City Line to Pond Lane are made to have four designated shared travel lanes with current parking, OR 2) a simple majority of registered town voters with not less than ten percent casting votes, whereby the voters approve a plan with fewer than four shared vehicle travel lanes.
Warrant Article 70, asks Selectmen once again to get the voters opinion on travel lanes – Do they want to keep the four in use for 50+ years, or have fewer with get bike lanes. State law doesn’t not even allow this article passed by residents to have any control over Selectmen. They don’t have to do it. To force a non-binding opinion question on a ballot is a petition of more than 10% certified local, registered voters, nine months before an election. We got that many signatures against lane reductions, so it is just a lot of easy work. It is an option after article 69 passes.
Tonight the chairman of the Arlington Board of Selectmen explained their decision that voters are not qualified to express opinions. Even for a non-binding policy question, voters are denied the opportunity to have their opinions counted on keeping or reducing Mass Ave travel lanes. Everyone knows most residents want to keep four travel lanes, so Selectmen don’t what that on record.
Throwing away travel lanes was decided ten years ago, long before any public input, so tonight’s result was expected. We just needed a last bit of definitive proof for the state Inspector General and Arlington voters that Selectmen don’t care what taxpayers want. If there ever was another example for needing Proposition 2 1/2 and putting large tax hikes up for vote, this is it. Arlington Selectmen don’t want democracy or public opposition getting in their way.
The Arlington Massachusetts Board of Selectmen is scheduled to decide on February 27, 2012 whether to ask voters if they want a reduction from the current, de facto, four shared vehicular travel lanes to three or two travel lanes with two bicycle only lanes on Massachusetts Avenue from the Cambridge line to Pond Lane. I submitted the motion to the Arlington Board of Selectmen for the 2012 annual election and here are the reasons why residents need to be asked what they want on a ballot question:
- Four travel lanes can be safe. Arlington Center around where Mass Ave intersects Medford Street (Google map) is very safe and comfortable for pedestrians, including children from Arlington Catholic High School and St. Agnes grade school. Traffic speeds are low and appropriate, so four travel lanes do not automatically produce high speeds. The raised median gives pedestrians a safe place to stop after crossing half the road before finishing without waiting to have a walk signal and the right of way. This location also provides wider sidewalks, parking, and a dedicated turn lane. A safety improvement would be a less generous median width so that cyclists have more space to share on outer travel lanes. The Lake Street intersection could resemble this intersection, for safety and a more consistent look to Arlington’s primary artery. Both are 78 feet curb to curb.
- It’s important. Arlington’s main artery has operated as a four lane road for decades to many thousands of people every day. A change to fewer lanes for decades to come is a big change affecting many people and business, making it worthy of a town vote instead of just five selectmen . It is a larger issue than other ballot questions asked of voters previously, such as allowing the two movie theaters to serve beer and wine. Diminished capacity and longer travel times on Mass Ave can limit development options for the future. All too often, opportunities are rejected for creating too much traffic. Less traffic means less economic activity and prosperity.
- Residents have not been given a fair chance to be heard and counted. Various committees were loaded with more advocates than opponents, Selectmen have not responded to resident objections, and MassDOT has also ignored over 3,000 petition signatures and over 70% of business objection to travel lane reductions. Even a 2002 Vision 2020 town survey of roadway concerns resulted in traffic congestion and bottlenecks being the third greatest, while bike lanes were fourth least of 17! A ballot vote is the most accurate method to record what residents want, despite typical 30% turnouts. Electronic surveys like the current Vision 2020 one are an invitation to fraud, duplicate votes, and non-residents responding.
- A ballot question is overdue. The issue has divided residents and left many unsatisfied with local government, not just state and federal government! Personally, I lived in Arlington for 19 years, reasonably happy with local government. That changed after hearing about stupid plans for downsizing Mass Ave and feeling like I wasn’t being heard. Various groups who think they know what is best for people have schemed ten years for lane reductions. Its time residents are asked and debate to end.
- The Board of Selectmen, by asking voters, demonstrate that they want to best serve residents of Arlington in learning what residents want. They will also learn the answer and magnitude for each part of the town, the 21 voting precincts, further aiding them in policy decisions.
- Selectmen need to back their claims to MassDOT. MassDOT (Department of Transportation) has repeatedly asked the town if there was wide public support for their plan with bike lanes and fewer travel lanes following numerous letters and newspaper articles in the Boston Globe and Arlington Advocate. Each time, the town manager or senior planner wrote back that there was widespread support, and only a small, vocal minority opposed. This is despite never having a town wide survey or non-binding ballot question. MassDOT was also not told over 2,800 ballot signers opposed their plan. MassDOT accepted claims without proof, save 66 petition signatures and a few letters in favor. They are reconsidering.
- The cost of adding a ballot question to the town ballot is negligible. Selectmen cost taxpayers about $30,000 to hold town elections on a different date than primaries, thus incurring all the costs of an extra day of voting places, election workers, police supervision etc.. Due to redistricting, over 200 town meeting seats are up for grabs, so adding one ballot question is minor.
- Denying voters the opportunity to choose has harsh consequences. If Selectmen refuse to let voters express their wishes, Town Meeting can vote for warrant article 70 to put it on the ballot by the 2013 annual town election. Rather than having a vote too late to impact project plans, I have submitted article 69. This rescinds last year’s Town Meeting vote allowing Selectmen to acquire any needed property for the Mass Ave Corridor Project. Its the only power residents have over Selectmen. Projects can not be built before all needed land rights of way are owned by government entities. When the project plan matches what residents want, Town Meeting can again vote giving Selectmen the authority to obtain land needed for the project. Having to force Selectmen to do what residents want will delay the project. It would have been far better for Selectmen to do what residents want in the first place. Shame on Selectmen if they choose this path.
- If Selectmen give voters a ballot question and they choose bike lanes over shared travel lanes, I will accept that, and withdraw my two articles at Town Meeting. I will continue to advocate for improved safety in the plan with raised medians to protect pedestrians, on-demand high visibility crossing signals at crosswalks now without traffic signals, and other opportunities. The lane count issue will be settled.
- If Selectmen want to hurt residents beyond removing travel lanes and defy residents at Town Meeting, they could change the project plans to eliminate all needs to take land. That has the greatest impact on sidewalks, leaving most as is. Are having bike lanes that important? Who are Selectmen actually serving by denying residents fresh sidewalks? An election recall of Selectmen would then seem natural.
- Some background: In 2002, four travel lanes may not have fit if guidelines with wide parking and travel lanes were respected, despite many projects not observing them. This is a supposed justification for not offering residents a choice. In 2006, the state issued a revised set of guidelines where four travel lanes satisfy requirements. The town’s claims were never updated to reflect it and consultants at Fay Spofford & Thorndike continued to claim four travel lanes were not possible. An earlier version of their Functional Design Report used for the rejected, first 25% plan submission acknowledged four travel lanes were used every day, while a revised FDR downplayed the fact and tried to imply there was insufficient width. In 2011, engineers Howard Stein/Hudson presented design options for Arlington Center. Option one used even narrower lanes than would be needed in a four lane Mass Ave Corridor project. When asked about it at public hearing, the defended the widths as meeting guidelines.