Arlington's town manager told a state highway meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27, that he opposes cuts in MBTA service, focused on issues related to Route 2 gridlock and urged more funding for the town.
Adam Chapdelaine, accompanied by state Rep. Sean Garballey and Selectman Joseph Curro Jr., made these key points at a state Department of Transportation meeting attended by an estimated 60 people at the McGlynn Middle School in Medford:
-- Increase Chapter 90 funding by at least $500,000 annually for improvements to curb and sidewalks and consider $1.7 million for resurfacing;
-- In any state plan, consider the impact that Route 2 backups cause on the entire length of Lake Street; and
-- Because 20 percent of town residents use public transit to commute to work daily, he called MBTA services "critical to the growth and livability of Arlington and the surrounding region."
Chapdelaine made his remarks despite a decline this fall in state tax revenues as well as suggestions from the Patrick administration that a tax increase may be considered in January to deal with sharp transportation shortfalls.
Garballey has been asked for comment.
I would like to begin by thanking the Patrick Administration for giving cities and towns across the state an opportunity to be heard regarding the Commonwealth’s transportation planning and funding strategies. I would also like to thank MassDOT for their commitment to being a partner with Arlington on improvements to the Mass Ave. Corridor as well as other projects that have had a positive impact on Arlington. I also commend the Commonwealth for its commitment to providing users with a cost effective, safe and reliable transportation system and understanding that any solution to the issues we face needs to be a comprehensive, system-wide approach.
Moving forward, I would like to speak on several transportation issues that are of high importance to Arlington and we hope are strongly considered as planning proceeds.
The MBTA is critical to the growth and livability of Arlington and the surrounding region. We rely heavily on the MBTA for regional mobility. Without a significant number of large employers within our borders, the vast majority of our residents commute out of town for work. Without access to the T, traffic that could already be described as heavy would significantly increase.
We estimate that about 20% of Arlington residents use public transit to get to work each day. Arlington has 10 bus routes that move its residents, not just to Boston, but to Burlington for shopping and employment, to the Bedford VA Hospital, Tufts University and other health care and educational institutions in and around Boston. All of this will also be enhanced when the Green Line is extended to Route 16 in Medford, and for that reason, we support that extension.
We also rely on the T for transportation within Arlington. Most of Arlington’s schools, our recreation center, athletic fields, libraries and Town services are accessible by bus. Our residents can and do use buses to get around town, particularly those who cannot drive and don’t have cars—our students, elderly, and disabled. Without this service, traffic would be at gridlock, and some would be housebound.
Based on this, we strongly urge you to not consider reduction in MBTA services as a means of addressing fiscal concerns. Rather, we ask that you consider a comprehensive, well-balanced approach to revenue enhancement that will look not only at revenue generated by fares, but also at other sources of revenue that can be responsibly raised and earmarked for supporting public transit.
Traffic Concerns Along Route 16 Through to Fresh Pond Circle and Beyond:
Another concern for Arlington and the surrounding region is the traffic congestion and difficulties which exist in the area where Alewife Brook Parkway (Route 16), Route 2, and the Fresh Pond Parkway converge. This critically important network of roadways is in gridlock every weekday at rush hour and the impacts are felt for miles.
In Arlington, an ongoing design project to improve the Massachusetts Avenue corridor has been negatively impacted by this situation. Space that was initially programmed to provide better pedestrian access or more attractive bicycling accommodation was shifted to provide room for vehicles to queue (sit idling) in order to wait to get through to Cambridge or on to Alewife Brook Parkway (Route 16).
On Lake Street, which connects Route 2 to Massachusetts Avenue and ultimately allows travel through to Medford, traffic is often backed up for its entire length (over one mile).
This impact is not only felt by commuters, it has a significantly negative impact on the residents in the immediate neighborhoods trying to get to and from their homes during peak rush hour times.
While it is understood that a simple solution may not exist, we feel that continued evaluation of this network of roads is critical and warranted. Not only do we need to look for creative ways to make improvements, a real effort to not make the situation worse is equally important.
Over the past few years, new, significant development has been allowed in this area. Most notably are the development at Cambridge Discovery Park, and the residential project at the former Faces night club.
It is discouraging to see large scale development allowed in areas where such obvious congestion problems exist. Where projects can have the potential for regional impact, more regional oversight and involvement in the permitting process may be warranted.
In summary, it may be that the first step in improving the problem of traffic congestion is to ensure that it isn’t allowed to become worse.
Chapter 90 Funding
We would ask that you strongly consider increasing the Commonwealth’s investment in Chapter 90 as part of any comprehensive transportation plan that is considered. Chapter 90 funding is an efficient and proven means of assisting cities and towns in maintaining their primary transportation infrastructure – their streets.
Based on the results of Arlington’s most recent Pavement Management Report we have determined that $1,700,000 will need to be spent annually on road resurfacing alone, in order to bring our pavement condition index (PCI) back to the level it was at in 2005.
Recent capital improvement projects within Town have been utilizing significant amounts of funding to improve curb and sidewalk conditions as part of road surfacing projects. Though prudent, efficient and vital, this additional work has reduced the funding available to be spent on surfacing and will impact the plan to improve the Town’s PCI to the 2005 level.
The annual budget from Town funds for road improvements in Arlington is $750,000. If Chapter 90 funding remains level, the capital road improvement budget will total $1,500,000. In order to proceed on track towards an improved PCI rating and provide improvements to curb and sidewalks it is estimated that an additional $500,000 annually will be required in addition to the current funding allotment. Arlington is strongly in favor of increased Chapter 90 funding in order to progress in improving the current Town infrastructure to acceptable levels.
I would like to close by thanking the Patrick Administration and MassDOT for providing this opportunity for discussion and I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of what will be a sincere, collaborative dialogue in the future.
The state Department of Transportation meeting in Medford is among a number held statewide this fall, but it is the session closest to Arlington.
The purpose was to hear from customers and residents to generate ideas and help make priorities for agency initiatives. Questions the state is considering:
* What do you want from your transportation system?
* What services and projects are important to you as a resident and member of this community?
* Where do you see the area's transportation system in 10 years? More buses, longer commutes, smoother roads?
* What does our city/town/region need?
* Are there any service improvements or projects that could be made to maintain or enhance access to jobs, current opportunities for economic development or simply improve the quality of life in our communities?
* Are there any reforms, initiatives or improvements to services provided by MassDOT or other transportation agencies that will enhance the quality, customer service or efficiency of these services?
This story was published Nov. 28, 2012. Advance material was published the day before. It was updated Nov. 29 to add a link to an opinion.