High Street Project
High Street Advisory Committee under Mayor Lavender
Meeting: Geordie Vining, Mary Eaton, Roger Gagnon, Don Pollard, Karen Kelley, Walter Clay, Gretchen Joy, Stephanie Niketic
The Committee reviewed the draft plan and cost estimate submitted by HTSD, and noted the following outstanding issues. A fair amount of work remains to be done before a final plan is put together.
1) Milling and overlay:
The draft plan calls for milling an average of 2 inches and replacing with 2 inches of pavement the length of the road. HTSD has indicated that the original goal of milling down further to gain some more curb reveal is not feasible, due to concerns about the variable depth of pavement vs. base material because of the many patches, as well as the tightness of the budget. HTSD has indicated that this depth of overlay should not affect the performance or longevity of the roadway.
In addition, HTSD has expressed concerns about whether portions of the trenches and patches will require a more full-depth repair, and has inserted into the budget estimate a line for $80,500 for “high early-strength concrete base course” for such a possibility. This would appear to be one of the primary wild cards for the project.
2) Wheelchair ramps/curb cuts:
The draft budget estimate and plan presented show only concrete wheelchair ramps/curb cuts, contrary to the City’s previous guidance and budget estimates put together by HTSD outlining brick ramps in areas where there are currently brick sidewalks. While acknowledging the higher cost of brick vs. concrete ramps, the Committee and City clearly want brick ramps for brick sidewalks, and concrete ramps for elsewhere. This is consistent with the City’s approach elsewhere downtown. Brick set in a concrete base resists settling to the same degree that a concrete ramp does. The AAB and ADA legal requirements focus on the grades and “tolerances” not the material.
HTSD’s Chad Brazee has agreed to 1) provide a firm count of what should be brick vs. concrete ramps; 2) provide a better cost estimate on the individual difference per ramp, brick vs. concrete; and 3) revise the plan and budget accordingly.
This could add a significant amount to the budget estimate. The Committee agreed to explore the possibility of fund-raising from High Street residents and others to help defray the costs. If cost proves to be a determining factor, it is also possible that we might set up the bid package so that the brick vs. concrete ramps are presented as alternates.
The draft plan shows alterations in the striping of lanes at State Street, Eppa Way, Green Street, Toppans Lane, plus the entrance to the Bresnahan School, inserting turning lanes and striped islands, and taking out turning lanes elsewhere. The Committee and City feel that all striping at intersections should remain the same as today’s environment, retaining existing turning lanes and avoiding new ones. No accident data exists to support such changes; a number of comments were made to the effect that such changes could conceivably worsen rather than improve traffic flow. (At the Bresnahan School, a divided yellow center line has been inserted, but apparently there used to be a traffic island there that was removed because it interfered with traffic flow – the striping should not be changed.) Therefore, these lane modifications should be removed and returned to the existing pattern. (HTSD’s Chad Brazee agreed to restore the existing striping and lane pattern in the plans.) In addition, the City and Committee expressed keen interest in incorporating bicycle icons in the parking/bicycling shoulder lanes. It is recognized that there does not appear to be enough road width to establish a true bicycle lane, with white lines on both sides. However, much of the road is apparently 44 feet wide, which will allow for 11-foot vehicular travel lanes and 11 foot parking/bicycling lanes (7 feet for parking, 4 feet for bicyclists), separated by a 6-inch white stripe and with bicycle icons running to the right of the white line. This arrangement appears to be within the AASHTO guidelines for bicycle facilities. In addition, the City of Cambridge has noted that reducing the width of travel lanes from 12 to 11 feet can reduce vehicle speeds by 2-4 mph.
HTSD’s Chad Brazee agreed to insert into the plan 11-feet wide vehicular travel lanes, plus the bicycle icons (except at the Bartlet Mall area).
The Committee also discussed the possibility of eliminating church time parking on High Street in the latter narrow section.
The Committee and City are very interested in the prospect of adding some raised crosswalks in order to a) provide for better street crossing by pedestrians and b) provide for traffic calming. The raised crosswalks should have zebra striping on the sides to warn oncoming cars, and should address any drainage issues. There are models in other cities that are appropriate and comfortable for cars to pass over at about 30 mph but not faster. A number of variations exist, and the City needs to have a cost estimate provided in order to facilitate decision-making. The Committee noted on the plans approximately 10 locations where raised crosswalks would be a useful addition. Once some cost information is in had, these locations can be prioritized and a number selected. The Mayor Lavender has expressed particular interest in this approach, and the Committee has placed it among the top priorities. This request has been made to HTSD in the past, but not yet reflected in any cost estimates or information. HTSD’s Chad Brazee subsequently indicated he would try to provide such information.
The Committee also questioned some of the choices regarding regular striped crosswalks on the draft plans. HTSD has indicated that crosswalks must now be at least four feet away from an intersection, and so some of the old ones do not comply. There are some other issues with the need to provide additional wheelchair ramps/curb cuts at crosswalks. This issue needs more exploration.
5) Conduit for future lights:
HTSD confirmed that the current budget estimate includes conduit and pull boxes for three future locations of pedestrian activated lights, not yet marked on the plans – to date, anticipated at the Bresnahan School, High School, and Kelly School. The Committee suggests that the conduit should be installed at 1) the eastern side of the Bresnahan School entrance at the crosswalk; 2) the western side of Toppans Lane for the High School – although there is some concern regarding the interaction of the existing tree and the lights; and 3) the eastern side of Market Street (western side of Auburn Street) for the Kelley School. These locations should be confirmed with the School Department.
6) Limits of work:
The preliminary plan shows the project beginning at Plummer Avenue on the west, and ending just shy of the town line on the east. On the west, this was done because 1) it will be a cost-saving measure, as the road widens considerably out to the 3-roads intersection; 2) the road is apparently not in that bad condition in this area; and 3) we have discussed a future phase to re-configure the intersection and narrow the roadway at that point. In general, the Committee would prefer to have the project go up to where the state highway begins at the 3-roads intersection, but is open to an argument for beginning at Plummer Ave.
Geordie asked HTSD to provide an estimate of the cost of milling and paving that section, so that we have a basis for comparison. On the eastern end, Chad noted that the project could indeed be brought the last few feet to the town line.
7) Police details:
The MHD agreement #9363 does not provide for reimbursement of police details associated with the project, even though they are a required element of the construction. Currently, the City does not have an account or budget line to provide for such details. The Mayor’s office and Auditor’s office are looking into this matter. In the meantime, we should attempt to gain an estimate from HTSD of the amount anticipated as necessary for police details.
The Committee has suggested meeting again on Wednesday April 10th at 7:00 p.m. in the police station conference room. Geordie will schedule and confirm, and look to have revised information from HTSD by then.
The Committee and Mayor’s office are suggested posting a general public meeting for Thursday April 25th at 7:00 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium.
I think we may have lost about a month in the overly optimistic timeframe of finishing up an acceptable design and bid package. Assuming that the City can work through the above issues with HTSD and MHD during the next four weeks, then we could still be on track to get the bid package out into the world around June 1 and aim for a start date of around August 15.
HTSD has requested that Geordie communicate directly with MHD’s Marty Leelman regarding the above issues as soon as possible.
In addition, a face-to-face meeting needs to be set up with HTSD regarding revisions to the plans and cost estimates.
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