Our group’s concerns about the proposal to construct a 93-unit “transit-oriented” residential development on New Street, which lacks the continuous sidewalks needed for a safe pedestrian route to and from public transport, has prompted a public involvement process to inform a complete redesign of the street in 2015. Following well-attended public meetings held by the city’s Department of Public Works (on Oct. 22) and the FPRA (on Oct. 29), we have developed the following list of concerns and priorities to guide city staff as they develop concept designs for the next meeting (in December or January). The plans and survey that DPW presented on Oct. 22 are posted online.
1. New Street should function primarily as a residential way and secondarily as a connector to a new public way that will traverse the shopping center, connect to Terminal Road, and provide an underpass connector below the railroad to Rindge Avenue and the Alewife Station to facilitate better and safer pedestrian and cycle connections to the large residential population on Rindge Avenue.
2. New Street should be redesigned to provide for continuous ADA approved sidewalks of 5 to 8 feet in width on both sides of the street.
3. The redesign should provide for an elevated cycle track of at least 5 to 6 feet in width to connect seamlessly to the existing cycle track on Concord Avenue and to a future extension of the cycle track to Terminal Road and to an underpass to Rindge Avenue. It should be clearly marked or paved in a colored materials to insure that persons with sight issues can clearly see the definition of the cycle track way. Given the uncertainty of acquiring the disused rail spur running behind New Street to convert into a bike path and the difficulty of creating access easements from New Street and the shopping center to such a path, the street itself should be redesigned to include cycle facilities.
4. The car travel lanes should not exceed 10 feet in width (similar to the dimensions the city has employed on Blanchard Road). These dimensions will allow for more generous sidewalks, cycle ways and tree planting with fewer intrusions onto private property and public open space. Narrower lanes will also have a traffic calming effect appropriate for a residential street bordering a public park.
5. A speed limit of 25 mph on New Street should be established and posted as soon as possible. A slower speed would provide for safer passage along an increasingly dense residential street bordering the city’s largest recreational facility.
6. The street trees to be planted should be on the far side of the sidewalks and cycle tracks, either on city land or private property, to insure the trees’ health and safety and to allow for efficient snow removal in winter.
7. A lighting plan and street furniture plan for New Street should be presented in any final development plan.
8. Speed bumps or raised tables should be installed at points where pedestrian crossings occur now and will occur in the future. These might be located at Concord Ave, Bay State Road or at the entrances to any residential building at 75 New Street and at other projected residential buildings on New Street.
9. Existing overhead utilities and the location of new utilities should be placed underground throughout the street length.
10. The survey information that was provided at the Oct. 22 was inadequate to show the important linkages between New Street and the surrounding network of properties and current and future streets that would ultimately have to function in a unified way to provide for safe travel ways for pedestrian, cyclists and automotive traffic. We recommend that the survey base be expanded to include the adjacent properties and buildings between New Street and the Fresh Pond Shopping Center.
11. The Plan should reflect in a specific way the city’s renewed interest in safe passage across the shopping center parking lot for both shoppers and pedestrians crossing through en route to Alewife Station and Rindge Avenue via the Fresh Pond Parkway bridge.
12. The Plan should include a firm proposal showing the layout of an extension from Terminal Road to New Street.
13. The plan should show the location of a pedestrian and cycle underpass from a New Street extension to Rindge Avenue to serve the many residents of all ages who need to reach the shopping center, Danehy Park and the Tobin School. The recent decision of the School Committee to incur an additional transportation cost to provide bus service for middle school children coming from Rindge Avenue to the Tobin School should be an incentive to develop a permanent physical connection that would serve both school needs and the interests of the general public.
If these safety provisions cannot be addressed in the near term, the city should consider the establishment of a cul-de-sac at the current western terminus of New Street with roll curbs to facilitate fire and emergency access and appropriate openings for pedestrians and cyclists. A barrier for cars would eliminate, for the time being, the present heavy volume of cut-through traffic. While this would pose an inconvenience for drivers seeking to avoid parkway congestion, this privately owned parking lot, as currently laid out, cannot safely continue to function as a de facto public way when the residential population increases.