WVN Newsletter #166: Who's right about traffic impact?
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Developer Frank Dougherty and newly-elected Planning Board
member Dan Mesnick wrote last week in the Wayland Town
Crier about the traffic impact of the town center proposal. Both
argued against the recent study by independent traffic consultant
Kevin Dandrade, who predicted a tenfold increase in car trips at
certain hours and Saturdays as busy as weekday commutes.
Below you'll find an analysis of those arguments from Dawn
Davies, a 16-year Wayland resident who opposes the project.
First, please note the plans to deal with the possibility of a record
crowd when the special Town Meeting convenes at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday to consider zoning for the 372,000-square-foot
SPECIAL TOWN MEETING BUSING, PARKING
Selectmen say they're prepared for more than 2,000 people.
When the 382 High School parking spaces are taken (25
reserved for the handicapped), voters will be directed to satellite
lots at the Middle School, St. Ann's Church and the Town
Building. (Not Sandy Burr Country Club as in the past.) Six
school buses will shuttle voters to and from the Field House.
Doors open at 6 p.m. TM begins promptly at 7:30.
Town officials have done little to spread the word. A notice
appeared on the town website only late Monday morning. Please
be sure friends and neighbors are aware.
HOW MUCH CAN TRAFFIC BE MITIGATED?
In recent letters, columns and advertising about the proposed
MUOD (mixed-use zoning) bylaw it has been stated that the
zoning comes with mitigation moneys and the alternative 40B
all-housing development without. That is not true.
"Local 40B Review and Decision Guidelines," Mass Housing
Partnership, November 2005, states on Page 6: "A ZBA (zoning
board) may enact its own rules for hiring peer review
consultants." The developer is required to pay for these
consultants. A 40B developer is still on the hook for mitigation of
traffic problems found--or any other problems found that require
mitigation. This commercial project, by the way, is 17 times the
size of Mel's Plaza.
The way you preserve a road's Level of Service in the face of
increased volume is to increase a roadway's capacity and add
stop lights. To widen our most problematic intersection, Route
20/27-126, the developer would cut into the historic district -
diminishing what some see as a picture-perfect part of New
England, which has persisted since Longfellow's time. Would
widening take part of the First Parish lawn? What about the
wetlands across the street which have already been a problem
for the Public Safety Building?
To reduce the wait time for his patrons, the developer proposes
to add two\ new stop lights at the development entrances, to
enable his traffic to enter and leave - making others wait. On
Saturday, if you live near Glezen Road and need to visit the
landfill or Russell's you will have to pass through three to four
stop lights, two of which will require a wait to get through. It will
take you at an estimated minimum 6-8 minutes longer than now.
We would live through building these mitigations, and the
concurrent environmental issues. The only other way to increase
road capacity is to increase speed, which could compromise
safety and hinder pedestrians. Each drive through the center
would now involve two to four stop lights.
Some say the critical question is "how will the traffic flow?" For
residents the important question is "What is my experience of
traffic in Wayland center going to be?"
The problem is, as independent consultant Kevin Dandrade
pointed out, traffic through the center of town will never be
perfect. The center of town is in a flood plain, and comprises
buildings 200+ years old (which is why it is so charming!).
Developer Frank Dougherty asks "Who can afford to pay to fix the
existing problems?" Residents may ask, "Who wants to create
more problems?" In this view, residents tolerate our current
level of service because we cherish what we have.
But there is another reason as well. You may have noticed that
many attractive town centers throughout New England are not
the fastest road to traverse. Town officials choose not to widen
them because of the saturation effect. As water seeks its own
level, roads tend to fill to the level at which it starts to become
difficult to drive them. Some ask, Why give up your scenic center
to get a little better throughput which would rapidly deteriorate to
the old conditions of stop and start?
With mitigation, one opens the floodgates to new drivers
perceiving an easier route and new drivers coming to the large
shopping center. Then we could be left with long backups, but a
less attractive town center to sit in while backed up. Ultimately,
even with every mitigation possible in place, this will still be what
traffic engineers call a failed intersection.
Dandrade was not given the benefit of seeing the report from
independent fiscal consultant Judi Barrett, which spelled out
where the traffic would need to come from. Barrett says
shoppers will have to come from a radius of at least 4.5 miles to
support the commercial development. For comparison, that is
one-third of the way to Boston.
Side streets will suffer as well. As Dandrade's study makes
clear, his firm was not allowed to study those impacts, including
the projected length of the queue of cars waiting at an
intersection. Why is this important? Because long queues are
strong motivators of diversion, and such diversion can occur at
substantial distances from the intersection. Many savvy drivers
already cut through Happy Hollow to Old Connecticut Path to
Stonebridge to Landham to go to the landfill on Saturdays. When
the arteries become clogged, traffic will divert, and that traffic is
It does not take much to get backed up enough to divert.
Eighty-eight cars can back up Route 27 from town center to Five
Paths. Rice Road could attract cut-through traffic.
Experienced traffic engineers we've spoken with say that Route
20 ultimately needs to be four lanes wide from the Sudbury River
to Weston. For now it is unclear whether the selectmen
negotiated an easement to make any widening possible. Would
the town encounter costs by taking land through eminent
Another long-range complication is that the Route 20 bridge over
the Sudbury River is to be replaced shortly and is designed to
serve a two-lane road.
Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor