Comprehensive transportation plan in the works

March 16, 2023

Transportation Advisory Committee Chair Laura Davis appeared before the Select Board on March 6. Top of mind is an upcoming comprehensive transportation and mobility study.

The study is intended to dovetail with the town’s sustainability principles with an emphasis on traffic calming, walking, bicycling, neighborhood connectivity, and public transit. 

The town is seeking bids from engineering firms with experience in an inclusive community-wide process. Cost of the study is estimated to be not more than $100,000.

Select Board chair Matt Johnson pointed out that Public Works Director Alan Cathcart estimates that the town is behind a $20 million eight ball when it comes to roadway maintenance and improvements and that those costs need to be addressed in the study. 

Member Mary Hartman commented that such a study touches almost all aspects of community life – tourism, the rail trail, planning board regulations, among others.

The advisory committee is also evaluating the safety for people walking and biking across Route 2. Senior Town Planner Erin Stevens recently met onsite with state transportation officials. She remarked that, while technically you are safe standing on the traffic island at a Route 2 intersection, you certainly don’t feel safe as cars and trucks race by at 60-plus miles an hour. 

Select Board member Henry Dane commented (perhaps with a smile) that there are tunnels for turtles under Route 2 and maybe we should consider one for people as well. Stevens indicated that near-term safety measures would not include major capital investments.

Another intersection of concern is at Stow Street and Sudbury Road, where library patrons cross from the parking lot. The committee has received requests from library staff, the Friends of the Library, the Library Corporation and the Commission on Disabilities to improve safety, especially for nighttime users. The committee will host a site visit later this month or in early April.

Speed limits are a perennial hot button issue especially for neighbors on busy streets. Select Board member Terry Ackerman expressed exasperation with speed limit signs that contradict each other in a matter of a few feet. 

While the town has adopted a town wide 25 mile-per-hour limit, this does not necessarily apply to so-called “special speed regulated“ roads, which are the most heavily traveled through routes in town. 

A new state law designed to protect vulnerable users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, gives localities more control over speed limits on such routes. Planner Erin Stevens is seeking clarification from the state department of transportation about how to implement lower speed limits.