Letter to MassDOT: Safe Bicycle and Pedestrian Passage on Bridges and Roadways between Newton and Needham

posted Nov 27, 2012, 9:41 AM by Jim Lerner

To: Richard Davey, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation

Cc: Frank DePaola, MassDOT Administrator Highway Division
     Setti Warren, Newton Mayor
     Lawrence Cash & Thomas Currier, MassDOT Project Mgrs
     Robert Rooney, Newton COO
     Catherine Cagle, MassDOT Mgr, Sustainable Transportation
     Jerry Wasserman, Needham Selectman
     Josh Lehman, MassDOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator
     Daniel Matthews, Needham Selectman
     Cynthia Creem, State Senator, Newton
     John Bulian, Needham Selectman
     Ruth Balser, State Representative, Newton
     Maurice Handel, Needham Selectman
     Richard Ross, State Senator, Needham
     Matthew Borrelli, Needham Selectman
     Denise Garlick, State Representative, Needham
     Kate Fitzpatrick, Needham Town Mgr

Subject: Safe Bicycle and Pedestrian Passage on Bridges and Roadways between Newton and Needham

Honorable Secretary Davey,

The MassDOT holds key responsibility for advancing the design of our state bridges and roadways to ensure their safety and functionality for all users. Your new “Green DOT” initiative is an integral part of that mandate to advance bicycle safety on new and redesigned facilities. The “Complete Streets” philosophy adopted by the Commonwealth provides guidance toward incorporating bicycle and pedestrian accommodations into the designs.

We are deeply concerned that two of the MassDOT projects for reconstructing bridges and roadways between Newton and Needham now in advanced stages of design are not incorporating these approaches! The Kendrick and Highland Avenue Bridges over Route 128 (Project #603711) and Highland Ave/Needham Street (Project #606635) have not incorporated the consensus recommendations conveyed by all of the concerned bicycle and pedestrian advocates in Newton and Needham directly to your project managers and engineers six months ago (attached). The most critical safety issues continue to include:

• Lack of coordination and continuity of bicycle accommodations between the two projects
• Lack of any bicycle lanes on the approaches to both Highland Ave and Needham St
• Lack of traffic control for new high-speed highway ramps on heavily-bicycled Kendrick St
• Lack of safe sightlines at high speed highway ramps without straight-through bicycle lanes

Unless the designs are modified, these critical safety issues will continue to negatively impact bicyclists attempting to negotiate the roadways and bridges between our two communities for decades to come.  As a result, the highway becomes even more of a geographical barrier between the communities instead of the projects providing a means to unite them. Furthermore, an important opportunity to advance the state’s goals of encouraging alternative transportation to reduce our carbon footprint will have been needlessly squandered.

We urge you to open a review of the bridge and roadway designs on these two projects with the attached specific recommendations and alternatives for safe bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in mind. The current state of design of the accommodations can only be characterized as inadequate and unsafe by all concerned. Considering the advanced stage of design on the bridge project, it is imperative that a fresh look be made immediately. Our safety and the vision of transportation between the municipalities for generations to come are at stake.

Thank you in advance for your attention and action in this important matter!

George Kirby, Chair, Newton Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force
Tad Staley, President, Needham Bikes on behalf of the board of the Needham Bikes Bicycle Advocacy Organization
Helen Rittenberg, President, Bike Newton
Andreae Downs, Chair, Newton Transportation Advisory Group
Lois Levin, Newton Bicycle Coordinator
Alicia Bowman, Newton Pedestrian Coordinator