Trapelo Corridor Project

It’s lovely that they’re going to renovating it some, but I hope it is well-known that any less than a 5 foot wide bike lane adjacent to 8-foot wide parking stalls does not even meet AASHTO’s inadequate standards. The only place along the proposed reconstruction (working from I think the 75% design documents, as of 4 or 5 years ago) that even this low standard will be met is between Waverley Square and Beech Street. I recall that interested people reviewing those documens were told “don’t even think about changing the lane widths” — so I can only guess that they had already had negative feedback on this.

Given that these will generally be non-standard “bike” lanes, may I propose a non-standard striping? It should be made clear that the recommended riding position is as far to the left (near moving traffic) as possible, so as to ensure that maximum clearance is provided for any opening door. We can also use non-standard signs, rather than “Bike Lane”, they can read “Watch for bikes before opening doors”.

I’m serious about the proposals above; whoever designed this screwed up and was not the least bit thoughtful. This is not going to be a cycling facility that I would recommend to members of my family, and nobody should be the least bit surprised if it generally goes unused, either because cyclists ride “in the car lane” or because they avoid the road altogether.

26 replies on “Trapelo Corridor Project”

  1. David’s got this spot-on. The little “bike lanes” they have in Cambridge are a case in point. All they do is encourage bikers to ride in the path of opening car doors. Concord Avenue in Belmont is the same. I’d rather have no bike lanes at all on Trapelo road, so that everyone recognizes that bikes can and should use the regular traffic lanes.

  2. Just for the record, my understanding is that under Massachusetts law, a bike lane is supposed to be a safe place for the cyclists and not occupied by vehicles, but that cyclists are not required to ride in the bike lane. They may ride outside it if that is safer.

  3. The problem with bike lanes, and bike laws is, that they are made by people who don’t bike:
    Case in point: There is a new tendency to paint the intersection of bike lanes with bright green color. Nice —- if it is dry. During rain these are the most slippery thing you can think of, dangerous beyond belief.
    While streets are swept, bike lanes rarely are. Sandy bike lines are dangerous, again slippery.
    But let’s not only talk about bike lanes, most biking is done on regular roads. The roads in the Boston area are pathetic. potholes, grooves in the direction of the traffic, sudden edges are just some of the problems. When there is a construction zone, the police will ensure that car traffic is safe, but often on the expense of bike lanes. Signing shows up in the middle of the bike lane, there is one in Allston that is situated so that one can easily chop of ones head.
    After a car accident a guard rail is quickly repaired – but only if it is endangering car traffic. In one case in Cambridge workers simply bent the damaged guard rail into the bicycle lane, and it stayed there for another 9 month. It was only repaired after another car bumped into that guard rail, but the number of near misses between bikes and pedestrians, nobody cares.
    As long as bike safety is nothing but lip service in government services it doesn’t matter whether a bike lane is 5 feet or 7 feet wide.

  4. I think leadership in most of the communities nearby is supportive. We just need to give them direct and immediate feedback on infrastructure and/or training problems. Never argue on the street. But make the complaint so that the education or fix can happen.

  5. I have fears that the trolly wires for the electric busses mignt not be put back up after the work is completed, as what happened to the Green Line arborway when in 1985 the MBTA “temporarily” suspended E branch service for construction projects along Huntington Ave.

    Make sure to keep your bull wip handy just-in-case, to give the DOT and the T a flogging on Beacon Hill. Sometimes the noise of a cracking wip will remind them to keep on the straight and narrow.

  6. It looks like Belmont’s “big dig” has begun with some preliminary work. The big trucks and equipment should be digging soon. Now unlike Boston’s big dig, which had pest/rat control as part of that project’s funding, Belmont’s big dig appears to have nothing. It seems to be well talked about that the towns along this corridor are going to get hit with a rodent problem. There is already one in the Waverly Sq. area without digging yet. The Belmont Health Dept. has said there are no worries, that rats don’t burrow under the roads. I have a hard time believing in their “no worries” outlook.

    In speaking with pest control experts I am left with little doubt that a rodent infestation will be a major problem for surrounding homes and businesses. This will surely generate some negative press for the town and more importantly, health and financial concerns for residents living in the area, as these homeowners and businesses bear the financial burden of control and eradication.

    Will, this is a $17+ million project. Why can’t the town and perhaps the state (who is helping fund this project) be more proactive when it comes to pest control on this major construction project? Is someone heading up environmental operations, such as they had at the Big Dig, who handled their rat problem?

    Belmont, Watertown, and Cambridge should have addressed this issue prior to construction. Hopefully it’s not too late and we can still find solutions to this expected problem.

    Here is a link to an article several years ago on rats that might provide some insight as to what we should expect.

    (copy and paste the link to your browser)

  7. There has recently been a huge rat problem in parts of Boston and neighboring communities, quite separate from the Big Dig. We’ve been helped communicate problem reports that we’ve received to health authorities.

    Not sure that the local digging that the Trapelo Road project will bring will make things worse.

    But we’ll follow up with local authorities and develop some further thoughts on how this project will impact that.

  8. Is there a website that the public can access that depicts the project in detail, what is supposted to accomplish and the intended milestones achieved?

  9. Replying to DBenson: We’ve touched base with the Town Engineer on this. In his experience, road projects like Trapelo, do not exacerbate rat problems. It’s the big tunneling and/or demolition projects that contribute to rats.

    Replying to Ed: Not yet. There are full copies of the voluminous blueprints available in the Town Engineers office and in my office. I’m hoping we’ll see something up online from Mass Highway with more information.

  10. Will,

    I hear different rumors about the electric cables for the MBTA buses. One, is the cables will go back up once the project is complete. The other is the cables will stay down permanently. I am curious if there is truth to both rumors. Perhaps both are under consideration. Boy, what a vast improvement already (aesthetically) to the corridor with the electric cables presently taken down. Happy Holidays!

  11. I don’t think the plan would change, BUT who knows? Where would they use the electric bus fleet? Sell them to fill a hole in their budget? Iknow they are short sighted in their planning. The T cannot use their CNG busses at most stations like alewife because of some confined area codes and natural gas. No foresight was excercised in the planning of these edifices to accomodate CNG.
    The T needs watching. Do we have an insider that can pass along info as things evolve? Now that would be an interesting concept Spying on a public entity to pass along information to the public. Maybe Wikileaks has a section on the DOT and MBTA.

  12. Not being intimately familiar with the project, I wanted to add to the discussion about bike lanes. It is true that five feet next to on-street parking is the AASHTO minimum. I am quite surprised that MassDOT would deviate from this standard.

    As to the point about it being better to not have bike lanes than to have imperfect ones, I strongly disagree. The number one thing we can do to make the roads safer for bicyclists is simply having more bicyclists out there – the safety in numbers effect. If we leave out bicycle facilities, that is the same as putting up a big sign saying, “BICYCLES ARE NOT WELCOME HERE”. I don’t want the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Finally, Trapelo Road is so wide, I can’t believe we can’t fit five-foot bike lanes in there.

  13. Will, I heard at the LWV candidate forum last night that a significant amount of funding for the Trapelo Rd project was conditional on expansion of affordable housing in Belmont. Do you have any information on this? Thanks.

  14. Update. There is no mention of affordable housing on the scoring matrix used to award the money for Trapelo Rd. Affordable housing initiatives did not elevate the funding priority for this project.

  15. Roy, this is not correct. The Trapelo project was not conditioned on affordable housing. It is a straight road improvement project, funded from the main funding pot for transportation projects. It did get a little bump in the competitive scoring process because of its contribution to smart growth, but that was just one of many dimensions on which the project scored high.

    The confusion probably derives from the failed Belmont Center grant proposal which was made to a housing oriented funding source.

  16. Will, I agree. I looked into this because Roger Colton stated twice at the LWV event that an affordable housing component helped Belmont get funding for Trapelo Rd. There’s no evidence for that and I just wanted to try to keep the facts straight on this major project.

  17. Will, does the sidewalk work for Trapelo Rd. include redoing any part of the sidewalks leading up Cushing Ave? Those sidewalks are completely crushed because big delivery trucks use them to unload for the businesses, and the garbage trucks also pull up on them to get at the dumpsters behind the stores. If there is money to re-do those destroyed sidewalks, they should be spec’ed for a much heavier load than a standard 4″ thick residential sidewalk.
    Peter Castanino told me a 6″ thickness would be more appropriate in these conditions.

  18. Thanks for the link. It looks like the Cushing Ave. sidewalks will be redone as far as the driveways that lead behind the buildings fronting on Trapelo Rd. and Common St. Continuing the sidewalk for at least two more houses on the south (odd-numbered) side of Cushing would make all the difference. I will bring this up with Peter Castanino because I imagine that would have to be done within the Belmont sidewalk repair budget. If Belmont can make the money available, can you ask Mass DOT if the work can be done by the contractors when they do the first part of the street? That would probably be the most efficient use of resources.

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