Archive 2008 - 2019

Downtown Traffic/Light Project

by Representative Carolyn Dykema

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with the group and I hope everyone is well.

As you are likely aware, McMahon has provided responses to our comments and those of the public.  The responses are posted on the town website.

After speaking with many of you, the Selectmen, and many residents, it’s my opinion that the essential and most challenging question we need to address prior to town meeting is the number of through lanes in the downtown. As you know, McMahon’s original proposal included two lanes, whereas our group endorsed a single through lane. 

Over the past several days I’ve spoken individually with the Selectmen about this issue. They will bear the ultimate responsibility for the project and they are very carefully considering possible impacts of each option. It goes without saying that changes will impact the community for a long time and they want to get it right.  

Some of the Selectmen have expressed concern with the one-lane scenario, especially given that the engineers have recommended a two-lane configuration. Specifically they fear that the addition of a light might create excessive wait times under the one-lane scenario. They are concerned this could lead to more dangerous traffic accidents if, for example, drivers try to “beat the light.” They also expressed concern for disruption to adjoining neighborhoods if commuters grow frustrated with the wait and seek alternate routes through downtown.

To get a fuller picture of potential impacts prior to endorsing one of the options, I understand that Selectmen Leary will be asking the board to request the following additional information:

-Ask the Holliston Police Department to comment specifically on any safety concerns with either the one- or two-lane configurations for either pedestrians or vehicles.

-Ask McMahon to estimate the difference in commuter wait times between the one- and two-lane scenarios during rush hours.

-Ask McMahon to formally comment on any pedestrian or vehicular safety concerns relative to either configuration.

While we’re waiting for this additional information, Selectman Leary has asked for feedback from the group:  Some residents have suggested that the Selectmen take a “pilot” approach by implementing the single-lane option then adding a second lane if the wait times prove unmanageable. Selectmen Leary would like to know what concerns there might be with implementing the inverse option, which would be a two-lane pilot being converted to a single lane if it were not successful.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

The Selectmen have scheduled the next formal downtown meeting for April 13.



Comments (9)

I agree with Mr Connor that the process has been backward. While safety must be considered first and foremost, liveability for town residents (those who will foot the bill) must be the second priority. The concern about impatient drivers making poor choices is valid. But perhaps the Selectmen should drive through other towns where traffic flows slowly and the safety of pedestrians and viability of the retail district is the governing principle. Downtown should not be designed for the benefit of cars and trucks driving through. Downtown should be designed for those who live in it, shop in it, and use it every day. When considering the number of lanes, the design must consider the issue of on-street parking and the safety of those exiting their cars. Consider the young mother who has to wrestle a baby seat or young child out of a car, or an older person who uses a cane to stand steadily. Those are challenges with the current lane configuration given the number and size of the trucks that pass through downtown. At the very least, I hope that the Selectmen will consider reducing the overall speed limit through the heart of downtown. A safe speed in a school zone is 20mph. Downtown should enjoy a similar status. There are too many side streets and driveways in use for multiple lanes and a cruising speed limit to make safe sense. Forget state averages for wait times at red lights; use common sense and disallow right turns on red from Central onto Washington Street; find a way to acquire some additional off street parking. Isn't it worth a few extra seconds or even minutes to keep our town safe and attractive for current and future residents?

Alison Quinan | 2016-04-05 06:08:32

The amount of red tape in this town is embarrassing. Too much bureaucratic BS. It will take 5 years minimum before anything gets done. It's one of the reasons other towns refer to us as Woonsocket North..

Stan Coffin | 2016-04-05 04:00:29

I support the single lane approach. Perhaps if the back-up is too lengthy some through drivers may select an alternate route; the Mass Pike and 495 for example.

Ken Campbell | 2016-04-04 19:17:55

John Connor-- thank you for so eloquently stating what many of our neighbors and friends are thinking. We agree with you! I too will be voting NO unless there are signs of community input. No confidence, no vote.

Eric Raffi | 2016-04-04 15:44:57

Hi Carolyn, Thank you for all that you do. I feel strongly based on what officer Gatchel said that adding extra lanes increases safety concerns for pedestrians crossing using the cross walk. Due to what happend this winter with a pedestrian mortaliry and others getting hurt as well pedestrian crossing safety is paramount. Increasing lanes increases confusion and blind spots for drivers. Mark Ahronian

Mark Ahronian | 2016-04-04 14:39:22

When the Article for the redesign of downtown appears on the Town Meeting Warrant, I intend to vote it down - again - and for the same reasons I voted against it last time; I have no idea what my tax money is actually buying me. These are the same plans that were developed without any community engagement or support, which the Selectmen are desperately trying to salvage at the last minute. Here we are a month away from Town Meeting, and we still don't know how many lanes there will be! This is a critical design parameter which affects every other aspect of the project. In a quote from this publication (Holliston Reporter): Jay Leary emphatically declared that "lights and lights are most important, and they must be installed ASAP, worry about the other stuff later." Mr Leary, I respectfully disagree. It is the very heart of our community which is under assault by a plan that was designed to maximize traffic flow above all else. Slapping white paint on the street does not design in safe motor traffic, safe pedestrian crossings, or safe cycling. Asking the community to comment by e-mail after the fact, then having those concerns summarily dismissed by the engineering firm with a predetermined scope of work does not constitute community involvement or good engineering practices. Our town merchants have requested their parking be left undisturbed. Our downtown residents have requested traffic not cut through their streets. Our own planning board has requested off street bicycle lanes in accordance with Mass Department of Transportation design guidelines. So what exactly am I getting for my Million and a half tax bill? If this plan were complete, would you allow your child to ride a bike to the library? In contrast, on this very same street (Route 126) less than 3 miles away, MassDOT has completed its "Complete Streets" redesign of the roadway from Framingham to Holliston. The redesign includes a roundabout for traffic calming and better flow, traffic lights at all crossings, dedicated on street bike lanes, an off-street multipurpose bike/pedestrian path, and associated landscaping. If you lived in Ashland, would you allow your child to ride a bike on the off-street path to Dairy Queen? The difference here is that the Ashland design process began by the design team holding public meetings and asking residents what they wanted, and wherever possible,incorporated those needs into their design. At the Holliston town line, pedestrians and cyclists alike will get dumped out into the street. That's how I feel about this project. No confidence, vote no.

John Connor | 2016-04-04 14:20:22

Carolyn Dykema: "After speaking with many of you, the Selectmen, and many residents, it's my opinion that the essential and most challenging question we need to address prior to town meeting is the number of through lanes in the downtown. As you know, McMahon's original proposal included two lanes, whereas our group endorsed a single through lane." .................I agree. That is the essence of the conflict.

Warren Chamberlain | 2016-04-04 09:13:04

I live on a side street close to downtown. It takes quite awhile to pull out onto Washington as it is. A single lane restriction is going to make it impossible. The traffic will back up to Highland.

Danielle Blackley | 2016-04-04 06:46:23

Thanks for your help with this important issue, Carolyn! I am not in favor of having two through lanes due to how drivers all too often fight over room and who gets to go first at lane merges. People sometimes drag race when they see a merge. Two extra lanes also seems like a colossal waste of space, too, in our downtown square, which we should probably keep for sidewalks and parking. I would consider the pilot approach, but only the pilot that starts with one lane.

Dianna Vosburg | 2016-04-04 06:06:30