Massachusetts Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board Meeting Minutes:
April 15, 2009, 1:00 - 3:00 PM
EOT Conference Room One, STB, Boston
Welcome and Introductions: Board Co-Chair Dan Driscoll welcomed members and guests. Members attending: Rosalie Anders, Cindy Campbell, Robert Cohen, Wendy Landman, Josh Lehman, Rob Miceli, A. Richard Miller, Danny O'Brien, Lea Susan Ojamaa, Joe Repole, David Watson. Attending by conference call: Craig Della Penna, Karin Goins, Jeff McCollough, Catherine Miller. Absent: John Allen, Ken Brisette, Joe Cosgrove, David Domingos, Todd Fontanella, John Meldon. Guests attending: Glen Berkowitz (LSA), Gary Briere (DCR), Dale Carder (MHD), Jackie Douglas (Livable Streets), Ann Hershfang (WalkBoston), David Loutzenheiser (MAPC), Jill Miller (Natick BPAC), Julian Munnich (Natick Planning), Marius Navaza (Livable Streets), Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky (MassHighway), Marie Rose, P.E. (MassHighway), Bill Steelman (Essex Heritage), Chief Engineer Frank Tramontozzi, P.E. (MassHighway), Merrick Turner (BETA) Kevin Walsh (MassHighway), Bob White (CT Roundabouts). Guests attending by conference call: Misrak Sultan (MHD D4).
Featured Speaker: Luisa Paiewonsky, Commissioner, MassHighway: Co-Chair Driscoll welcomed Commissioner Paiewonsky on behalf of the Board. The Commissioner covered the following key points:
Many individuals at today's meeting were involved with developing MassHighway's Project Development and Design Guide.
The Guide is more a toolbox, less a recipe book.
Compromises had to be reached in terms of Chapter 90-funded projects, and retroactivity. All MassHighway projects are subject to the Guide, but not if already past the 25% design phase. Designs were redone on a case-by-case basis, with MassHighway paying for redesign in some instances.
More than 300 MassHighway personnel have been trained in using the Guide to date.
MassHighway has a Bicycle - Pedestrian Accommodation Engineer on its staff, Lou Rabito.
Marie Rose heads the Project Engineering Division, overseeing preparation of MassHighway projects for the STIP. Kevin Walsh heads the Environmental Division, overseeing permitting activities.
All MassHighway projects are reviewed for bicycle, pedestrian and ADA/AAB compatibility
There are numerous reasons why project waivers may be sought: parking, historic issues, environmental concerns, etc.
Approximately 50% of the projects are designed locally; local personnel have also been trained to implement the Guide.
Narrowed lane widths are one design result, allowing more shoulder and sidewalk width.
MassHighway also requires detection of bicycles at intersections; new video detection systems also account for bicycles.
Bridges are a very current and important concern. MassHighway endeavors to provide sidewalk and shoulders on bridges even if the bridge approaches lack them. Bridges are large, long-term investments. Cantilevered additions are a possible approach.
The Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP) is off to a quick start. Five of its 200 bridge projects take up 50% of the total program cost. Bicyclists and pedestrians are allowed on four of the five bridges, but not the Whittier Bridge, which spans the Merrimack River on I-95.
Some key design concerns arise in urbanized areas, where ROW is constrained. Examples are lane layouts on Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues in Boston.
The 4/14 Boston Globe article mentioned that the Big Dig project influenced trail funding. In fact, the Big Dig took 71% of all state transportation funds for many years, and reduced our obligation authority. EOT now has a consultant on board to conduct an in-depth study of the Transportation Enhancement Program and to make recommendations for improvements. We want local investment in projects before they proceed to construction; if localities are not invested fiscally they may not be committed to project completion. In some cases, MassHighway may assist localities, as in the case of Tyringham Main Road project trees. Although criticism may be warranted, we are making progress. Bicycling and walking are important modes.
Key points raised after the Commissioner's presentation were as follows:
We are seeing positive changes. The Guide has prompted a new approach and attitude. Urban locations tend to be the most challenging, as there is less space and more pedestrians and bicyclists. Bridges like Rt 9 over Lake Quinsigamond are vital links.
Who will bid on stimulus-funded projects? DCR and MassHighway have established a positive working relationship, such as on the North Bank Bridge. There is a 6/27 bid deadline for the Alewife Brook Path project, but who will bid the project. (The Commissioner stated that the funding would not be lost. MassHighway must bid stimulus-funded projects. Projects will be scrutinized more closely; overruns and extra Work Orders would not be permitted.)
Are there written records on design exceptions, and can they be accessed? This would be useful for transparency. (Rose responded that Assistant Chief Engineer Tom DiPaolo chairs the Design Exception Committee.) The Board would like to have him attend and to provide advance notification of waiver request; the Board would also like to be notified of projects being considered for waivers. (The Commissioner stated that DiPaolo could attend to provide information on what projects are in process. The Board could provide an informal review of the waiver process. The Committee's decisions could possible be posted on the MassHighway website.)
Tracking MassHighway 25% design hearings is difficult, and information is more limited than in ENFs and EIRs. Greater information should be provided on sidewalk, crosswalk and bicycling conditions. Which projects are likely to have greater impacts on bicycling and walking? (Rose stated that additional project plan information could be provided through the MassHighway project files.)
How has the Guide been used relative to the Rt 135 project in Natick? Citizens there were assured that the Guide would be followed, such as on the location and size of signs, surface markings, and the placement of guardrails. There is a local perception that bicyclists were safer off-road. (The Commissioner responded that the Guide steers design as well as construction. This project's design may have predated the Guide.)
Greater thought should be given to local projects. Fiscal incentives should be provided to localities that design and construct projects conforming to the Guide. The design waiver process varies; the Committee's meeting should be opened. (The Commissioner noted that infrastructure design takes time. She cited the example of changing from police to civilian flaggers. The 1996 MGL mandate also applies to accommodation of bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as the Guide. She will speak with the Design Exception Committee regarding potential Board attendance and participation.)
Will the projects on the stimulus list proceed? (The Commissioner noted that Round One projects were in good shape. The Manhan Trail in Easthampton/Northampton was one example; a hearing is scheduled 4/27.)
There were questions as to specific project status: Nonantum Rd; Upper Charles River Trail/Milford; several SRTS infrastructure projects. (The Commissioner answered that Round One projects were shown on the EOT website, and Round Two projects were being prioritized now.)
Will all stimulus projects be subject to the Guide? There were concerns expressed at the 3/18 meeting with the ABP Director. (The Commissioner replied that widening will occur for bicyclists and pedestrians as feasible. The focus in year one is bridge repair; we are on a learning curve. Walsh added that design must be done correctly and that the permitting process was painstaking.)
Some projects don't require review, as they conform to the Guide and properly accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. MassHighway could simply certify that these projects were acceptable. (The Commissioner noted that it would be possible to recognize projects meeting MassHighway guidance.)
The “Complete the Streets” website recognizes the Guide for its exemplary material.
Roundabouts: A.R. Miller noted that many members and guests had come to discuss this topic. Cohen noted that State Traffic Engineer Neil Boudreau would not be able to attend on 5/20 owing to a prior commitment. The following key points were raised on roundabouts:
Some localities are interested in installing them, but require guidance.
There are appreciable difference between the larger, multi-lane, traditional rotaries and the smaller, single-lane roundabouts. Roundabouts are easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate.
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) has standards for roundabout signs and pavement markings. Approaches, crosswalks, and yield signs should conform to MUTCD requirements
The illustration in the Guide may be misleading, as it appears to be a photo of a traditional rotary when the topic is roundabouts.
The Guide addresses rotaries and roundabouts on pages 6-12 and 6-44, respectively. Differences in outside diameter, geometry and design speeds are clearly detailed and differentiated. The greater the outside diameter, the greater the design speed; the smaller the outside diameter, the lower the design speed.
FHWA has produced a brochure on roundabouts, citing roundabouts as a means to improve traffic safety through traffic calming.
Traditional roundabouts are being eliminated in Massachusetts.
Some shared use paths, such as in Harwich, also have roundabouts. They are not used on the Cape Cod Rail Trail because of the number of bicycle trailers, younger riders, etc.
There are additional firms with roundabout expertise. They should also be invited to attend.
The larger issue of traffic calming may be one on which the Baystate Roads Program (BSR) may be able conduct training.
Comments by Guests: Munnich asked about takings, and project cost-effectiveness, especially in terms of maintenance and electricity. Was renewable energy a possibility? Tramontozzi observed that safety was always the first consideration, with cost secondary. The TIP is a fiscally constrained document. A.R. Miller noted that public health should also be taken into account
Minutes: A.R. Miller commented that the 3/18 minutes appeared okay.
Moving Together 2009: Lehman mentioned that workshops were being developed for the 10/14 event. The Save the Date reminder was due to be distributed 6/15, the same day the BSR website would post MT09 information. Conference information would be provided to both BSCES and the WTS Boston Chapter, among other organizations.
Charles River Basin Update: Driscoll reported that five proposals had been received for the study, and that five interviews were scheduled 4/28. The study encompasses bridge design and shoreline restoration. A 4/30 public meeting regarding the Longfellow Bridge will be held. DCR and MassHighway are working closely together on this vital project. Landman noted that the fast-track project requires a holistic approach, and that the approaches and the structure be done in tandem. Driscoll stated that the consultant will be on board in two months.
Driscoll also reviewed the River St - Western Ave segment, where intended work included changing curbs, roadways and path width. Constraints are imposed by the roadway and utilities at some points. This work will be coordinated with the Western Ave Bridge project.
Legislation: Discussion centered on possible truck restrictions, through legislation and/or roadway layout. Workshops are available on these issues. Another possible item for discussion is curb ramps at parking lots.
Next meeting date: Scheduled for 5/20 in EOT Conference Room One, STB.
Adjournment: Driscoll adjourned the meeting at 2:45.