fbpx
Comment Letter Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

Comment Letter Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

April 13, 2019

To: MassDOT Highway Division
10 Park Plaza, Suite 6340
Boston, MA 02116 kelleysqproj.worcester@dot.state.ma.us

Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

To the Project Team,

On behalf of the LivableStreets Alliance Advocacy Committee and WalkBoston, we would like to provide you with some feedback regarding the Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project, particularly in response to the design presented at the February 27, 2019 Public Meeting.

Overall, we think the project is moving in a very positive direction. In particular, we are very supportive of the hybrid roundabout, which uses less pavement than traditional signalized intersections and also creates a calmer, safer environment for all roadway users. We are also pleased about the attention that is being paid to placemaking and transforming Kelley Square into a place for people rather than just a place mainly for cars. However, we have some significant concerns about pedestrian safety and bicycle facilities in key portions of the project.

Please consider the following suggestions:

1. The roundabout and Madison St should be one lane in each direction rather than two.

We recognize that for traffic capacity reasons and to better accommodate large trucks, MassDOT has chosen to make the roundabout and Madison St two lanes in each direction. However, this has significant downsides:

Pedestrians face a double threat risk at every unsignalized crossing of more than one lane. ​While we agree that signals are not desirable at these locations, the double threat of a vehicle in one lane yielding to a pedestrian who is crossing while a vehicle in the second lane fails to yield is very real. In Boston, there have been multiple pedestrian fatalities on roads with this type of design in recent years. As such, the Boston Transportation Department is working to redesign these roadways with a single lane in each direction instead. It would be negligent for MassDOT to build more of these types of roads given the threat they pose to pedestrians.

A two-lane roundabout design is confusing for drivers, and will draw their attention away from pedestrians who may be crossing.​ With the current design, drivers must choose the correct lane prior to entering the roundabout. Given the multiple exits from the roundabout, it would not be surprising to see drivers choosing incorrectly, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the area. These drivers may then illegally change lanes within the roundabout. Furthermore, drivers who are entering the roundabout from either Harding St entrance or from Green St who wish to travel further around it will need to cross one or more lanes of roundabout traffic in order to do so. This is a very challenging maneuver to make, especially when traffic is heavy. All of these complex movements that a two-lane roundabout requires will draw drivers attention away from pedestrians (or bicyclists) who are crossing at various locations around the roundabout.

Providing two lanes in each direction on Madison St means that there is not room for appropriate bicycle facilities there.​ The proposed shared use paths along either side are an inappropriate facility for an urban street like Madison St, and room is needed to provide bicycle facilities that are separate from the sidewalk. (We will discuss this further below.)

Therefore, we would strongly urge MassDOT to consider a single lane roundabout and a single through lane in each direction on Madison St. This may have some negative impact on traffic capacity during peak times, however we think the safety benefits are well worth that tradeoff. Furthermore, we are confident that large trucks can be accommodated with a single lane roundabout by using mountable truck aprons in the center of the roundabout and at intersection corners, as well as recessed stop lines where needed​.​ Both of these elements are recommended by the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide.

2. Physically separated bike lanes should be provided around the roundabout, on Madison St, and on Vernon St

Around the roundabout, the current design proposes shared use paths. ​While shared use paths may be appropriate in some contexts, we feel strongly that this is not one of them. We recognize that it is often recommended practice to design for shared use around a roundabout, however, this may not work as well in urban areas with high pedestrian activity. We therefore ask that you provide physically separated bike lanes around the roundabout. This type of design was considered for Inman Square in Cambridge.

Here is an illustration of the Inman Square, Cambridge proposal. Note the mountable truck aprons in the center of the roundabout:

On Madison St, the current design proposes shared use paths in place of traditional sidewalks. As with the roundabout, we feel very strongly that this is not an appropriate context for shared use paths.​ Madison St is an urban street with buildings at the street edge, and especially once the nearby ballpark opens, will have significant pedestrian activity. Having pedestrians and bicycles share the same space in this type of environment is not desirable and will result in much conflict. We therefore recommend that protected bike lanes that are separate from the sidewalk be provided along Madison St. (A design similar to the contraflow protected bike lane on Harding St may be appropriate. Please refer to the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide for best practices.)

Lastly, the lack of any kind of bicycle facility on Vernon St is a big problem​, in our opinion. The current proposal contains a single through lane in each direction that is to be shared by bicycles and motor vehicles. This is not an acceptable design. There are a limited number of streets for which people bicycling can cross I-290, and it is essential that they all be safe and inviting for them to do so. Rather than providing a 4 lane cross section, we recommend a 3 lane cross section along with separated bike lanes.

Therefore, around the roundabout, and on Madison St and Vernon St, we urge MassDOT to use physically separated bike lanes for bicycle accommodation.​ The separated bike lanes should be designed with proper intersection treatments to keep bicycles, pedestrians, and motor vehicles separate. (Again, please refer to the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Guide.) This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the excellent guidance that MassDOT has created for physically separated bike lanes, and for the City of Worcester to be at the cutting edge of safe and accessible streets for people of all ages and abilities.

Some examples from the guide:
Roundabout with separated bike lanes and mountable truck apron

Protected intersection of two major streets with mountable truck apron and recessed stop line

Protected intersection with side street and raised crossing

3. Use small curb radii and provide two curb ramps at all corners rather than a single apex ramp

There are some intersections that are part of this project that have large curb radii or where there only a single apex ramp is provided on certain corners (for example two of the corners at Millbury St and Endicott St.) This is not good for people in wheelchairs, as it points them into the street an an angle rather than in the desired direction of travel. ​We ask that you adjust the curbs at these corners to provide two ramps, one for each crossing.

Thank you for considering our comments as this project moves forward. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have further questions or comments on our ideas.

Sincerely,

Charlie Denison
Board Member, LivableStreets Alliance

Wendy Landman
Executive Director, WalkBoston

Comments are closed.