MassDOT marches for changes to Battle Road

By Anne O’Connor - Correspondent

Almost 250 years ago, British troops marched from Boston in search of contraband arms. After killing and injuring American patriots on Lexington Green, the Royalist troops were foiled by the patriots’ decision to relocate a cache of arms from Concord.  The soldiers then burned part of the town.

By the time the “shot heard ‘round the world” sounded at the North Bridge in Concord that day on April 19, 1775, some 2,000 American militiamen, minutemen, answered the call to arms. The British retreated back to Boston, dogged by locals sniping at them along the way.

The section of road roughly following the soldiers’ path between Lexington and Concord, Battle Road, runs through the Minute Man National Park in Lincoln. This busy section of Route 2A is a commuting route and popular with cyclists. Numerous pedestrians cross the road to get from one side of the park to the other.

Plans are afoot between the Federal Highway Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, MassDOT, to improve the safety of the road in time for Patriot’s Day, 2025. Interested parties had a chance to see and comment on the draft plan via a Zoom meeting on Nov. 4.

The projected $4.5 million cost will be split. Federal funds will cover 80% of the price tag and the remaining 20 percent will fall on the state.

In addition to resurfacing and striping over three miles of pavement mostly in Lincoln, the project aims to increase safety by installing crosswalks with a ramped granite median to calm traffic. The road width will not be changed but stabilized gravel at the sides of the road at the crosswalks will be added.

After studying traffic patterns, the group currently plans three crosswalks in Lincoln at the intersection of Route 2A at both Mill Street and the ranger station at Bedford Lane. A pedestrian-activated flashing light is planned for a new crosswalk at Bedford Road.

The intersections at Lexington Road at the Concord/Lincoln town line and Airport Road in Lexington will see changes intended to calm traffic. Plans include reducing sweeping curves and narrowing paved entrances to the roads.

Existing timber guardrails will stay, but the steel rails need to be replaced. A general consensus found that steel-backed timber guardrails were a better aesthetic choice than brown, powder-coated steel rails.

The problem is, Massachusetts is still testing the safety of the timber-backed rails. Until they are approved, the timber and steel rails cannot be part of a project. The approval may not happen before April 2025.

The state offered a compromise: delay the installation of the guardrails until after the testing is complete. It’s a risk MassDOT is willing to take, said Paul Stedman, District Highway Director for MassDOT. The repaving and crosswalks would still be completed by April 2025.

Lincoln town officials on the call praised the project. “Safety is a big concern,” said Town Administrator Tim Higgins. The plan balances safety and resources, he continued.

“The visual impact of signs is minimal” compared to safety, said Andrew Glass, chairman of the Lincoln Historical Commission.

The National Park Service criticized the proposed crosswalk at Bedford Road. The parkland on both sides is to be meadowed, said Simone Monteleone, superintendent of Minute Man National Historical Park. The socialized trails that may cut through the land will be damaging to resources.

“This is a historic road… It’s not just an access road for Lincoln,” said Nancy Nelson, who retired as the superintendent of Minute Man, and is a member of the Concord Historical Commission and the Battle Road Scenic Byway Committee. In addition to the striping and flashing crosswalk light changing the character of the way, she said the stone walls would be dwarfed by curbstones and the gravel at the crosswalk landings would, in effect, widen the road.

The Concord Historical Commission plans to present written comments to MassDOT and the Federal Highway Administration by Nov. 18, Melissa Saalfield, chair of the commission, wrote in an email.

Residents can provide feedback to the call center at 857-368-3500.

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