Lexington Center Streetscape Project

Myths and Facts

Myth: We should try low-tech solutions first.

Facts: This sounds good until you look more carefully at the low-tech solutions being suggested.

  1. Lower the speed limit to 20 mph. That’s school-zone speed. On Mass Ave, that speed is impractical to the point of inviting scofflaws. There is also a legal issue: The Town of Lexington cannot, by law, unilaterally set speed limits. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation establishes speed limits. This limit is set by conducting extensive traffic studies, determining how fast drivers typically travel on the road in question, and then setting the limit at 85th percentile speed. This is the speed exceeded by only 15% of traffic. At many locations, this would result in the speed limits being reset higher than their current limit.

    The Municipal Modernization Bill (enacted in August 2016) grants towns more latitude in setting local speed limits. It is currently unclear how that law applies to Lexington Center. It is worth noting that the speed limit in Lexington Center is 25 MPH.
  2. Use a flag system at crosswalks. Been there, done that. Several years ago, after a fatality in the area, the East Mass Ave neighborhood set up a flag system at crosswalks. A walker was supposed to pick up a green flag from a container and wave it at the traffic so that cars would obey the pedestrian crosswalk law. Here is what happened:
    1. Four to six cars would speed by before one actually stopped.
    2. The flags were constantly being vandalized or stolen.
    3. Flags would bunch up on one side of the street, leaving crossers on the other side with nothing to wave.
  3. Deploy traffic officers at rush hour. But there are problems here, too:
    1. It unnecessarily puts police officers in danger. The expense associated with redesigning and rebuilding the intersection would still be needed to create a safer and visible location for an officer to stand.
    2. It doesn’t address all the other times of day when traffic becomes relatively heavy.
    3. Pedestrians will have no protection except at rush hour.
    4. Crashes that result in injuries to non-motorists occur at all times of day, not just rush hour. (Source: Mass DOT Crash Portal.)
  4. Place raised pedestrian crossings along Mass Ave to calm traffic. Again, this one’s a no-go. Mass Ave is classified as an “Urban Principal Arterial (State Numbered Route).” Use of raised crosswalks is not allowed. Raised crosswalks on Mass Ave are not available to us as a way to calm traffic.

    Moreover, according to Lt. Mark Ferreira of the Lexington Fire Department, “Massachusetts Av is the main route that the Fire Department uses to get to almost every part of town. [P]lacing raised crosswalks along this route would significantly affect our response time to emergencies. I understand the need for some type of increased safety measures along this route, but raised crosswalks would have a very big impact on public safety response.”

For real solutions to real traffic problems on Mass Ave, low-tech solutions are clearly impractical.

Back to Myths page.

Friends of the Lexington Center Streetscape Project | Lexington, MA