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Mass. Ave./Appleton redesign compromise OK'd; bike lanes striped

Work on short-term safety improvements at Mass. Ave./Appleton, Arlington Heights, has been completed by the town’s contractor, Markings Inc., YourArlington partner Patch reports and shows how it looks >>

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

"This option/ compromise is a lot better than option 1."
      -- Eric Helmuth

UPDATED Nov. 4: The Select Board unanimously approved the Mass. Ave./Appleton Street intersection redesign at its Wednesday, Oct. 13, meeting. This plan, a compromise following a strong reaction from the cycling community after a September vote, incorporates critical safety measures and creates visibility for eastbound cyclists coming down Mass. Ave. and westbound drivers turning left onto Appleton Street.

The vote was 4-0, as board Chair Stephen DeCourcey recused himself because his sister-in-law owns a neighborhood business.

The board also agreed to review this intersection again by next February.

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the board was presented with two options ― option 1 (shared bike/car lanes) and 2 (separate bike lane, eliminating 22 parking spots) ― and chose option 1. 

Director of Public Works Michael Rademacher subsequently suggested a hybrid solution. 

Working with Green International Affiliates, a transportation consultant in Westford, the town developed modified option 2. This plan incorporates bicycle lanes on both sides of Mass. Ave. west of the Appleton Street intersection, and one bike lane on Mass. Ave.’s eastbound side between Appleton Place and Burton Street. The westbound lane on Mass. Ave. between Forest Street and the intersection remains a shared lane for cyclists and drivers.

Select Board members' reactions  
Modified option 1: Massd. Ave. at Appleton. / Town of Arlington mapModified option 2: Mass. Ave. at Appleton. / To see a larger version of this Town of Arlington map, click here >>

“This is a good compromise based on competing interests, taking into consideration all the necessary safety measures,” said board member John Hurd. “Eventually, we’ll have a newer plan with a traffic signal. This intersection has wide sidewalks and incorporates some of the safety aspects that were in option 2. This is the safest version of this plan that we can come up with.”

Board member Eric Helmuth said, “This option/compromise is a lot better than option 1. We’re putting off the inevitable ― getting Department of Transportation funding ― which will likely require bike lanes in both directions. If this is as far as we can get now, I’m happy. It’s substantially safer than option 1. 

See the documents for this agenda item >> 

Views from residents about redesign

Phil Goff, design review committee member and member of the Envision Arlington Liveable Streets Coalition, said, “This compromise works fairly well from a bike-safety perspective. It’s not the ideal that I wanted, but I look forward to working with the town going forward to develop a design that works even better.” 

Arlington High School student Petru Sofio, a cycling activist who bikes to school every day, said, “I’m pretty excited about the new plan, and am happy that it’ll be installed this year. This is Arlington’s first protected bike lane, a big achievement for the town. These traffic-calming measures will save lives.”

One property owner, Chris Abidian, in a letter to the Select Board in the inage below, expressed concern for businesses:Chris Abidian

ARPA funding proposal being finalized

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine presented the Select Board an updated proposal on how the town will allocate its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, which the board unanimously received.

“I made a series of changes based on Select Board and resident feedback at the Sept. 20 meeting, and hope to get the Select Board’s endorsement at our next meeting, Oct. 25,” said Chapdelaine. 

The premium pay allotted or essential front-line workers has more than doubled -- to $3,247,893, from $1.5 million – “to make sure we treat our front-line workers fairly,” he said. 

“Approximately 300 town workers are eligible, including teachers. I also added $150K for equity and outreach, to enhance community outreach plans, and hope to have more refined data at our next meeting. Affordable housing will increase in years two and three, fiscal 2023 and '24, by $1 million, the largest stand-alone category in the entire framework,” added Chapdelaine.

DeCourcey replied, “I appreciate the town manager parsing this out. The most important things to take place are conversations between the town manager and various unions. On Oct. 25, we need to discuss small businesses and other categories ― such as housing, water/sewer and parks ― which need flexibility.” 

Other Select Board members also appreciated the revised plan.

“These changes reflect our values and spirit of cooperation and compromise,” said Len Diggins.

Helmuth thanked Chapdelaine for being responsive to the Select Board and community, and added, “Food security is also important, and I want to make sure we’re meeting the needs of Arlington’s organizations that provide food to those in need. The need is great and will probably keep growing.”

However, several members wanted to increase the premium pay for front-line essential workers even more.

“I appreciate the increase we’ve seen in premium pay for essential workers. It’s closer to where we should be, yet I’d like to see more. Premium pay is a one-shot deal. This is something we can still work on,” said John Hurd.

Diane Mahon said that essential workers deserve the maximum premium pay, which she said was $7 million. She said she could live with $5 million.

“When the pandemic first hit, premium pay for essential workers was the first thing the president talked about,” she said. She encouraged Chapdelaine to contact the town’s first responders, and to make more of an effort to set up meetings.

Read all of documents for this agenda item >>

Board of Health to immunize children once vaccine ready

“Arlington Board of Health’s current priority is to vaccinate the children in our community,” said Christine Bongiorno, director of health and human services. “We’re working with the schools to hit the ground running once the vaccine becomes eligible for children ages 5 to 12. We also plan to provide booster shots for adults, and possibly put clinics in place.”

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, Arlington’s Board of Health has provided vaccinations, medical support, contact tracing, resident support and community communications. 

“We administered more than 6,100 vaccinations, delivered 6,000 masks and made 7,000 food deliveries, including many deliveries at senior housing through Arlington’s food pantry. We also raised and distributed $218,620 to 104 residents impacted by the pandemic,” said Bongiorno.

In August, the Board of Health enacted a mask order ― because of a significant increase in cases across the town, state and country ― that requires everyone in indoor public spaces to wear a mask. 

“This mandate will expire when Middlesex County has two consecutive weeks at the ‘low’- or ‘moderate’-level. We’d been in the ‘high’ category for a substantial amount of time, and are now in the ‘significant’ category,” explained Bongiorno.

Mahon said, “I’m impressed by the Health and Human Services Department that, at beginning of pandemic, didn’t just do what’s necessary to get by, a testament to the department.”

“Our community is grateful for your dealing with people who are often frightened and angry,” said Helmuth.

Hurd said, “It’s extraordinary what the Board of Health has been doing to keep us all safe during this pandemic.”

Open Studios to showcase local art Nov. 13

On Saturday, Nov. 13, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., come see the works of more than 50 local artists. Arlington Open Studios’ 23rd annual event will be in person held at three locations in Arlington Center, including a Porchfest Stage on the Town Hall steps, and showcasing “lots of new features and visitor favorites,” according to the ACA website. Learn more here >> 

The event was held virtually last year.

See the entire Oct. 13 broadcast on ACMi:


Sept. 22, 2021: Review of rescue-plan's millions draws pitch for first responders
 
Sept. 15, 2021: Mass. Ave./Appleton safety option 1 OK'd amid public disagreement
 

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. It was updated Oct. 19, to add link to larger map and add a letter of concern about businesses as well as Nov. 4, to report completed work.

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