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Resident seeks Mass. Ave. ballot question as 75% plans due

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An Arlington resident who has been critical of the proposed changes to Mass. Ave. in East Arlington vows to ask formally that selectmen place a nonbinding question about this issue on the April 10 town election ballot.

Mark Kaepplein says he plans to ask selectmen Monday, Feb. 27, for a ballot question asking voters whether they would like the four travel lanes every day on Mass. Ave. reduced to three or two travel lanes. Seventy-five percent plans for the project are expected about that time.

Kaepplein made that request during public participation on Feb. 6, but Clarissa Rowe, chair of selectmen, suggested he make his request in an agenda item at the board's next meeting. The resident has confirmed that he expects to do that.

Commenting Feb. 6, Kaepplein cited a survey of East Arlington businesses and residents. He said the majority opposes the Mass. Ave. changes. The survey was one done by a group opposed to Mass. Ave. changes in the summer of 2009.

Meanwhile, Laura Wiener, of the town's planning department who has been the point person on the Mass. Ave. Corridor project, says the town is expected to received the 75 percent plans in late February, with a public meeting about them in March.

Kaepplein says has a copy of 3,000-plus signatures from residents collected in 2009 from those opposed to lane reductions. He said these and the letter from businesses opposing lane reductions were submitted at last April's 25 percent hearing. After that hearing, MassDOT sent submitted feedback to selectmen.

Selectmen Kevin Greeley said at the Feb. 6 meeting that he was tired of the view that the majority of residents opposes the project.

Cites earlier Vision 2020 survey, critiques latest poll

Kaepplein wrote in an email: "To the best of my knowledge, the last information on what residents wanted was in a 2002 Vision 2020 survey. Of 17 concerns, traffic congestion and bottlenecks were third greatest, bike lanes fourth least."

He said he has also submitted a Town Meeting warrant article to get a ballot question, but then the question would not appear until spring 2013.

Selectmen need 35 days before a local election to add a nonbinding question. He said he expects a vote Feb. 27.

Kaepplein added: "There is a question on this year's Vision 2020 survey on bike lanes and related subjects.

"Using for nonpaper results is an invitation to fraud. It's too easy for anybody to respond to the survey. Cambridge bicyclists could all do it at workplaces or residents could file multiple submissions from shared computers at schools and libraries and not have results claimed invalid.

"This is even presuming date/time, IP addresses, and computer/browser identification is recorded with each survey response AND there is scrutiny."

Those involved in the current Vision 2020 survey, which has a March deadline, have been asked to comment.

Kaepplein continued: "I've thought of some proof-of-concept tests -- say, Precinct 21 said they didn't value education or wanted commercial development only on Broadway.

"A strong like in 21 for 'commercial centers' might seem strange too, but I think that choice is code for 'Capitol Square.'

"So, a ballot question where there is authentication of voters is necessary.

"At the very least, paper 2020 questionnaires should be trusted more than online submissions since it’s more expensive to make extra submissions of those."

This story was first published Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012.

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