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290WVN #259: Town Center traffic plans and consequences

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  • waylandvoters1
    Aug 26, 2008
      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Widening major roads to accommodate expected traffic from the Town Center project will mean added traffic lights and the sacrifice of trees and part of the Historic District. The developers have added detail as planning
      continues and some residents have raised serious questions. It appears that the town will have to pay if it wants certain improvements.

      Also in this newsletter: Wayland Beautification looks for help from the business community.


      Questions of impact to wetlands areas, large trees and historical buildings were raised when Twenty Wayland presented traffic improvement plans connected with the Town Center project on the former Raytheon site. Lack of
      funding for sidewalks along Routes 20 and 27 leading to the new shopping area also provided controversy at the presentation on Aug. 18 during a selectmen's meeting.

      Traffic improvement plans included two new traffic signals, one at the junction of Routes 27 and 126 north of Route 20 and one on Route 20 near Russell's, where there will be an entrance to the shopping and residential
      development. The second entrance to the development, on Route 27 near Bow Road, will have a traffic signal only if usage (measured after the development is in use) warrants it.

      Residents of the Historic District and members of the Historic District Commission and Historical Society had previously asked that the order be reversed and the shopping center entrance light be installed first, with the
      126/27 light installed only as future traffic so warranted. Those recommendations were ignored. In addition, portions of Route 20 and Route 27 will be widened.

      On Route 27, there will be a new left turn lane heading north into the Route 27 entrance to the project. Route 27 will be widened at this point to accommodate the left turn lane. There will be no traffic light at this entrance
      unless it is determined later to be needed. This entrance cuts the land already cleared by Wayland Commons on the southwest side of route 27.

      Wayland Commons is a separate 40B affordable housing project of 48 age-restricted condominium units. Wayland Commons is obligated to provide $65,000 for sidewalks along its own land on Route 27. At the meeting, it
      was revealed that there is no time limit for providing the money for these sidewalks. After illegally removing trees from this property two years ago and then agreeing to plant new trees, it seems that no progress has been
      made. This means that it is possible that after the Town Center is built, Wayland Commons may still be an ugly empty lot with a wall and no trees and no sidewalks.

      The main entrance of the Wayland Town Center will be on Route 20 across from Russell's. Here there will be a new traffic signal and widening of up to 24 feet on Route 20. There will be a new left turn lane here and an
      additional through lane.

      Twenty Wayland will not pay for any sidewalks along Route 20. This is the responsibility of the town. It was suggested to use part of the $3 million "gift" from Twenty Wayland for sidewalks. Selectman Michael Tichnor said a
      cost estimate would be made later.

      There is a question of coordinating the traffic signal at the Route 20 entrance with the traffic signal at the corner of Routes 20 and 27/126. However, the town traffic consultant said this is "not likely to be effective due to the
      number of driveways between Routes 27/126 and the Site Driveway." (This would include the driveways to the Whole Foods shopping center and the post office on the south side of Route 20 and the shops and gas stations on
      the north side of route 20.)

      The most controversial part of the traffic improvements is the widening of roads and the new traffic signal at the intersections of Routes 27, 20 and 126. This affects both historical and wetlands areas.

      There are a number of large trees in this area, and widening the roads means that the utility poles must be moved. The moving of the utility poles requires a change in the tree canopy.

      Widening of the roads also means the road is closer to the historic buildings. This impacts the aesthetics of the historical setting. Marge Baston of the Historic District Commission said the Historic District was being
      "squeezed". The District is the visible display of the 370-year-old historic heritage of Wayland. Much of it has already been destroyed; for example, the Mellen Law Office Common between Route 20 and Pelham Island Road
      was once twice its present size but has been whittled away by one road project after another over the years.

      It is proposed to place a new traffic signal near the library where Routes 27 and 126 split. The small island now there would be removed. Instead of two crosswalks, there would be one. This configuration was claimed to be
      safer for pedestrians than the current situation without a light. In addition, the angle of the turn going north on Route 126 would be tightened which is designed to cause vehicles to go slower.

      There will be some coordination between the new signal at the split of Routes 27 and 126 and the existing signal at the intersection of route 20/126/27. These two signals will also be coordinated with fire and police
      emergency vehicle access needs.

      Here, where widening of the road requires existing sidewalks to be removed, Twenty Wayland will pay for replacement sidewalks.

      The parking spaces in front of the Collins Market building on the west side of Routes 27/126, which are now perpendicular to the road,  will be replaced with a smaller number of parallel parking spaces. Some small grassy
      areas will be added near the parking.

      Route 20 will be widened to include two new through lanes at the 27/126 intersection. This will require destroying wetlands on the north side of Route 20 near the public safety building. Replicated wetlands will be placed
      farther east on Route 20 near the Welcome to Wayland sign. A stone wall will protect the north side of Route 20 abutting the wetlands and there will be a culvert extension under Route 20.

      Several residents suggested shifting the Route 20 widening farther north into the wetlands, destroying more wetlands but not impinging so much on the historic land on the southeast corner near the First Parish Church. This
      suggestion was rejected.

      Roger Backman, chair of the Conservation Commission, expressed doubt that adding more through lanes on Route 20 would be effective. He suggested eastbound drivers would compete for the one lane that remained in
      front of them after leaving the intersection area.

      Although it was not part of the presentation, there was an extended discussion of the internal road through the project, leading from the main entrance on Route 20 to the secondary entrance on Route 27. This road, according
      to the selectmen, is to be a private road with public access. It has to satisfy regulations required by public roads but it will be maintained by Twenty Wayland.

      Raised walkways will act as traffic bumps.

      It is expected that drivers will use the road as a cut-through between 27 and 20, and some residents fear that this will diminish any "village" atmosphere of the project.

      One resident asked if the possible relocation of the planned municipal building for environmental reasons would cause changes in the nearby internal road. Frank Doherty of Twenty Wayland said this would have no effect.
      Though Selectman Michael Tichnor indicated that there would be no change in the municipal building site, the Conservation Commission has indicated that the present plan may not be permitted.

      -- Betty Salzberg


      You've probably seen the plantings in barrels at Five Paths, the landscaped island at Hooker's Green on Route 20 near Old Connecticut Path, and the drought-resistant species at the Landfill. They're among the most visible
      projects created and maintained in the past 10 years by the small group of Wayland Beautification volunteers.

      Now the group has a new plan, Adopt-a-Spot. Businesses will be asked to take responsibility for specific areas. As is done in some other towns, signs at the sites credit the sponsor, sometimes but not always a landscaping

      Elise Laurenzi of Wayland Beautification said the work became overwhelming for the small group, which included landscaping design professionals. Over the years volunteers have also planted and nurtured more than 50 shade
      and ornamental trees.

      "We were just looking for a way to really stay alive," Laurenzi said.

      She presented the plan to the Board of Selectmen on Aug. 18 and received a unanimous endorsement. Town Administrator Fred Turkington (358-3621) will field applications. Wayland Beautification hopes to designate sites by
      next spring.

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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor