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MWDN: Planning group targets Rte. 126 corridor

February 10, 2010

The MetroWest Daily News
By Kendall Hatch, Staff

ASHLAND — Local officials and state legislators listened to the proposals of a regional planning group and offered suggestions for improvements to Rte. 126 during a roundtable session yesterday morning at Town Hall.

The meeting was organized by the MetroWest Growth Management Committee and the Southwest Area Planning Committee in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation and the Boston Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is conducting a study of the Rte. 126 corridor from Bellingham to Framingham.

Seth Asante, a member of the Central Transportation Planning Staff in the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said his group had been studying the area since 2008 and had identified key intersections and stretches of road in Bellingham, Holliston and Framingham in need of improvement and redesign.

He said the group is now trying to talk to local officials and get their take on the proposed improvements or suggestions on other areas of Rte. 126 that need to be examined before drafting a final report.

“The most important thing is that when we show these improvements we get feedback,” he said. “If public participation is not there, things can be missed.”

Asante said Ashland and Medway, through which Rte. 126 passes, were not considered in the study because the route in those towns is either under construction or under engineering design.

Asante said in Framingham, the group focused on the north side of town because Rte. 126 on the south side, particularly downtown, is already being studied by another agency.

From Concord Street to the Wayland town line, five intersections were identified in the report as needing improvements to alleviate traffic and ramp up safety for pedestrians.

Asante suggested measures such as adding turning lanes at the intersection of Concord and Summer streets and reconfiguring and adding traffic lights at the intersection of Concord and School streets.

He also talked at length about the Rte 126/Rte. 9 interchange, which has a high accident rate, including three pedestrian accidents in 2006 and 2007. He said that while the sidewalks and crosswalks need to be improved, reconfiguring the interchange itself could stifle area businesses.

In Holliston, Asante recommended adding lights at the intersection of Washington and Summer streets, where there were 25 crashes between 2005 and 2007.

Selectman Carl Damigella and state Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, raised concerns about visibility issues in the proposed reconfiguration, saying there might be a number of rear-end accidents by drivers who may not be aware that there is an intersection ahead.

Asante said some of those issues could be alleviated by traffic devices warning drivers of the intersection, but he would take their concerns into account.

In Bellingham, Asante suggested improving sidewalks that may not meet ADA standards on Pulaski Boulevard and South Main Street, as well as making geometric improvements and upgrading traffic signals at the intersection of routes 126 and 140 to reduce the accident rate there.

A large concern for many in the audience was the plans’ accommodations for public transportation. Many audience members urged Asante and Efi Pagitsas, a trial analysis and design manager at the Metropolitan Planning Organization, to include measures like bump-outs and bus stops.

“We need to plan for not just where we stand, but where we will be later,” said Kathie McCarthy of the Framingham disability commission.

State Sen. Karen Spilka also urged Asante to reach out to Ashland and Medway to see if improvements are needed in their towns.

“This is a corridor and it’s a very important corridor for all of MetroWest,” said Spilka, D-Ashland. “Sit down with the town officials, so if you are doing the whole study you aren’t missing any important intersections in Medway or Ashland.”

Asante said his group will take yesterday’s feedback and factor it into their final report.

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