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State calls another hearing on Arlington's Mass. Ave. project

Posted by Brock Parker  January 30, 2013 08:47 AM

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Responding to a request from federal officials, the state Department of Transportation has called for a second public hearing on the proposed reconstruction of Massachusetts Avenue.

The hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. in Arlington Town Hall, has been called at the request of the Federal Highway Administration.

The state Department of Transportation said the purpose of the hearing will be to highlight changes to the project since a boisterous hearing in April of 2011 when the design had reached about 25 percent completion. The design is now 75 percent complete and is expected to go out to bid this spring.

The announcement of another hearing about the project comes as opponents to the Massachusetts Avenue proposal have gathered enough signatures to place a non-binding question on the Arlington Town Election ballot in April.

The nonbinding question will ask whether Massachusetts Avenue should have four vehicular travel lanes in East Arlington, as it does now.

Among the changes to the Massachusetts Avenue design since the hearing in 2011 was the town's announcement in March of 2012 that it had decided not to reduce not to reduce the number of vehicle lanes from two to one on the eastbound side of the avenue between Pond Lane and Linwood Street. The lane reduction had been included in a $5.8 million reconfiguration plan for Massachusetts Avenue along a one-mile stretch in East Arlington that would reduce the number of vehicle lanes, mostly on the westbound side of the avenue, in order to install bicycle lanes on each side of the roadway.

Opponents to the project have criticized the reduction in the number of travel lanes on Massachusetts Avenue, saying bicycle lanes are not needed. Supporters of the project, including the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition, have argued bike lanes in the project are needed and pedestrian safety improvements included in the design are a top priority.

The East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee that gathered more than 3,100 signatures needed to get the non-binding question on the ballot has also criticized state and local officials for not providing enough opportunity for residents to have their concerns about the project heard.

The hearing set for Feb. 26 will also address concerns raised by the Federal Highway Administration and solicit additional public feedback.

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