The $5.9 million Nobscot intersection improvement project gets underway later this month, with work likely to begin as early as Monday, according to a Department of Public Works online presentation tonight. It will likely run through construction seasons both this year and next.
Construction will require two traffic detours. The detour along a portion of Edmands Road will probably start this July and last about two months, project manager Matthew Hayes told attendees. (All images from the DPW slide presentation.)
There will be a second temporary detour for a portion of Water Street that will route vehicles through the CVS parking lot.
The project includes left-turn lanes in all streets leading to the intersection, widened travel lanes to 13 feet, and updated traffic signals. Plans also call for constructing ADA-compliant sidewalks, adding ornamental lighting similar to the street lighting in Saxonville, and building a bus shelter near the McAuliffe library.
What the project does not do is include infrastructure for bicycling, except for painting bike icons onto lanes also used by automobiles, SUVs, and trucks. Unfortunately, such “sharrows” have not been shown to increase safety and in fact may make cycling more dangerous, according to a report in Bloomberg News Citylab.
It’s hard to imagine many parents will be eager to have their children bike to school using the same traffic lanes filled with commuters in cars. Nor will many casual cyclists, myself included, want to bicycle on a high-traffic road when SUVs or trucks are behind us in the same lane. (If you’d like to see the difference real, protected bike lanes make, this tweet showing a dad and his 5-year-old explains better than words: https://twitter.com/comms_jon/status/1371157184260767749)
The project also doesn’t include landscaping along the roads, something that’s important to creating pedestrian-friendly streetscapes. DPW officials explained that there was not enough room left over for a separate bike lane or adding trees between the sidewalk and street once all the demands for motorized vehicle traffic had been prioritized. Landscaping will likely be done by some private property owners, though.
At the meeting and after during “office hours” with four neighborhood City Councilors, residents expressed appreciation for the upcoming improvements. However, several residents also expressed frustration that the project gave such little attention to the needs of cyclists and landscaping aesthetics.
It was noted that area bicyclists should soon have access to the Bruce Freeman trail; but it’s unclear how cyclists in Nobscot and Saxonville are supposed to get from their homes to the trail without adequate, safe bike lanes leading to those trails.
Some residents also voiced concerns about heavy (and potentially speeding) traffic along residential streets during project construction, as drivers will likely seek to avoid the intersection. Officials said there will be police details while work is done, and traffic will also be monitored. Anyone with questions or concerns can contact the DPW:
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