Main Street Comment Letter Worcester

Main Street Comment Letter Worcester

December 18, 2015

Patricia A. Leavenworth, P.E.
Chief Highway Engineer
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Attention: Roadway Project Management Project
File No.606434

Dear Ms. Leavenworth:

WalkBoston is pleased to offer comments on the proposed improvements to Main Street in downtown Worcester. In our work throughout the state, we offer comments on projects to assure that pedestrians will be well served by the proposed changes.

We applaud both the city and the state for the Worcester Main Street project, which, as currently envisioned, supports an improved, sustainable downtown. The traffic calming measures that are included will work toward and help upgrade in the use of downtown to make it a more attractive place for business, for educational opportunities and for cultural activities.

Curb radii and bulb-­outs
It is encouraging to see that the street corners are being designed with tight curb radii. This permits greater flexibility in constructing facilities for walkers, such as curb ramps and, in particular, bulb-­‐outs. The extension of the sidewalks into the street at bulb-‐outs is a proven method of enhancing pedestrian safety. Especially noteworthy are the bulb-­outs shown on both sides of the major street crossing in front of Mechanics Hall. This is an effective method of providing safe crossing for crowds going to or from the hall for cultural events. We encourage the city and the state to look for further opportunities to add more bulb-­outs to the project.

Street trees
 A relatively small number of street trees are shown on the plans. We recommend that the plan include a sufficiently large number of trees to give Main Street more shade and a friendlier appearance. In some cases, this is impossible because of underground utilities, electric lines or other impediments. However, the city should look for additional installations of trees in an area where the goal is to make the street more attractive to shoppers and people doing business downtown.

Pedestrian crossings at traffic signals
We understand that the city and the state are looking at additional methods of assuring pedestrian crossing safety at intersections. We encourage the use of concurrent signals at intersections where they are feasible because of relatively low turning volumes, along with leading pedestrian indicators (LPIs) as part of the signalization. LPIs have been proven to aid in safe crossings by pedestrians due to the fact that pedestrians are more visible to drivers and because they provide extra time they provide walkers to cross the street.

Bi-­level sidewalks
A major project element is the bi-­level sidewalks on the west side of Main Street. These sidewalks are designed to solve gradient problems on the existing slope of the sidewalks that arise in applying ADA design standards as part of the street upgrade. We understand that the bi­‐level sidewalks are designed to avoid constructing a sidewalk with a high curb that could be dangerous for walkers.

The result is the design of two sidewalks ‐ an upper sidewalk, nearest the buildings, which varies from some 12’ to more constrained widths that are 6’ or narrower. These variations appear to be required because the right-­of-­way boundary is not straight and many of those variations have long existed along the west side of Main Street.

The lower sidewalks, nearest the street, appear in typical cross‐sections to be a continuous 4’ in width throughout the project. The plans suggest that this 4’ width of the lower sidewalk will always be a hard surface –paved with stamped colored cement. The hard surface, along with proposed parking meters, implies that pedestrians will be encouraged to use the lower sidewalk. The lower sidewalk also includes several bus stops. In order to meet accessibility requirements, a 3’ wide path without obstacles is required to provide handicapped accessibility on sidewalks. However, the lower sidewalk includes street light poles and pits for street trees. Light poles and trees are shown in central locations along the lower sidewalk – i.e., 2’ from both the bollards and the curb. This results in segments of the lower sidewalk that are less than 3’ wide and thus do not meet ADA standards for walkability. The lower sidewalks need to be widened to safely and accessibly accommodate walkers. Widening to a 6’ width is recommended because that width would allow for tree planting and accommodation of street lights, etc. and still be able to provide a 3’ clear width as required by ADA. The extra width of the sidewalk might be obtained by reducing the widths of the two 6’ bicycle lanes to 5’ each. This gains 2’ of width that can be added to the lower sidewalks, making them 6’ wide. Within this space a 3’ clear walkway could be provided to meet ADA standards. A 3’ wide strip would then be available for installation of street trees, parking meters, street lights and signs.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project. Please feel free to contact us if there are any questions.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Brendan Kearney
Communications Manager

Comments are closed.