Lexington Center Streetscape Project

Phase One: Woburn St Intersection

Why start the Project at the Woburn St intersection?

Current Woburn St / Mass Ave configuration

Current configuration of the Woburn St / Mass Ave intersection. Click to enlarge.

Two reasons: roadway conditions and safety.

Phase One of the Project will address the streetscape of Mass Ave from the Woburn St intersection to the Town Office Building. This is where the Center’s roadway infrastructure is in the poorest condition. And the Woburn St intersection has more crashes resulting in injuries to pedestrians and cyclists than Lexington’s top ten most dangerous intersections.

What’s wrong with the roadway?

  • The road and sidewalks are in terrible condition from the surface to the substrate to the drainage deep beneath the street.
  • The roadway is in such poor condition that it is beyond general rehabilitation (patching and repaving) and requires full reconstruction.
  • Delaying this reconstruction will result in further deterioration and the occurrence of potholes over the next few years. It is when the roadway is under reconstruction that it is most economical to also rebuild the crumbling sidewalks and add important safety features.

What are the traffic and safety issues at the Woburn St intersection?

  • The intersection is very heavily used, carrying 23,000 vehicles on a typical day. (14,400 on Mass Ave to the East, 8,450 on Woburn St, and 21,400 on Mass Ave to the west, plus additional traffic on Fletcher Ave and Winthrop Rd)
  • Rush-hour traffic backs up as far as 1,000 feet on Woburn St.
Traffic Volumes

Click to enlarge.

  • Traffic patterns are confusing and dangerous for all users - whether in a car, on foot, on bike or with a wheelchair or cane.
Traffic at Woburn St / Mass Ave intersection
  • THIS INTERSECTION HAS A HIGH RATE OF INJURIES. (Source: Mass DOT crash portal, 2002-2013)
    • The Woburn St intersection is one of Lexington’s most dangerous intersections. It tops the list for crashes that injure pedestrians or cyclists, and is fifth in overall crashes.
    • Between 2002 and 2013, 80 crashes occurred at this intersection.
    • 25% of the crashes at the Woburn St / Mass Ave intersection caused injuries while only 8.9% of the crashes at Waltham St / Mass Ave caused injuries - a stark contrast between the Woburn St intersection and our only signalized Center intersection.
    • The Woburn St / Mass Ave intersection is a hotspot for injuries to non-motorists. The Harrington Rd / Bedford St intersection has the highest overall accident rate in the Center. With 210 crashes in 12 years, three of the accidents resulted in injuries to non-motorists (1.4%). By comparison, the Woburn St / Mass Ave intersection had fewer accidents. But Woburn St’s 80 accidents resulted in eight injuries to non-motorists (10%), making the injury rate to non-motorists at Woburn St seven times higher than at Harrington Rd.
    • 2014 crash data from the Lexington Police Department shows a discouraging increase in accidents and injuries with double the injury rate of the previous 12 years. Ten crashes resulted in five injuries, three of them serious. Two involved bicycles. Partial 2015 data indicates that the increased accident rate continues.
Traffic backed up on Woburn St

Traffic backed up on Woburn St

How will the Center Streetscape Project improve the Woburn St / Mass Ave intersection?

Town engineers and consultant traffic engineers recommend the following features and improvements:

Mass Ave / Woburn St / Winthrop Rd design

Click to enlarge.

Mass Ave / Woburn St / Winthrop Rd design

Click to enlarge.

Intersection Safety Elements

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Intersection Safety Elements

Click to enlarge.

Intersection Safety Elements

Click to enlarge.

  • The dangerous, criss-crossing traffic flow is converted to a much safer squared-off intersection with crosswalks on all approaches.
  • A decorative island has a mid-way refuge for pedestrians.
  • The two-way lanes where traffic enters and exits Mass Ave at Woburn St next to the Russell Square condominiums are converted to one-way right turn lanes from Mass Ave so that traffic movements are more predictable for all.
  • Crosswalks provide a protected place for pedestrians to cross - without a discouraging walk to the only signalized intersection, five minutes away.
  • A bike lane creates a predictable and safer route for shoppers on bikes and for bikes entering the Center from the southern side of Lexington.
  • Narrower traffic lanes and flush medians provide clarity for where cars belong and calm speeding traffic.
  • Decorative, smart traffic lights with minimal vertical structures make the improvements work. Pedestrians, including people with disabilities, have protected crossings where they need them. Traffic delays on Woburn St. are reduced and Woburn St traffic and cyclists enter Mass Ave with enhanced predictability and safety.
  • Cut-through traffic in the Winthrop Rd neighborhood is discouraged through strategic timing of smart lights.
Mass Ave / Woburn St rendering

Rendering of intersection viewed from Winthrop Rd side of Mass Ave. Click to enlarge.

Mass Ave / Woburn St rendering

Rendering of intersection viewed from Winthrop Rd. Click to enlarge.

The result:

Events at the Lexington Farmers’ Market space and the Cary Memorial Building will be more safely accessible to pedestrians, as will the Town Offices, the Police Station, and other businesses and houses of worship at the eastern end of our Center.

Pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers alike will all know where they should be, which way to look, and when they can safely proceed.

The important needs of our less mobile and less visually acute visitors and residents will be respected and accommodated.

What other options were considered?

Other options for this intersection fail to deliver the safety and pedestrian access features of this recommended option.

  • Keeping the intersection as-is will leave us with a high-injury hotspot and a virtual pedestrian desert with rush-hour back-ups on Woburn St extending more than 1,000 feet. Money that could have been saved by leveraging improvements off of needed road, sidewalk and drainage rebuilding will have been wasted when the needed improvements are inevitably made some time in the future.
  • Changing the intersection geometry but excluding the traffic light will leave bike lanes and crosswalks unprotected and make traffic back-ups even worse than they are now.
  • Signalizing nearby crosswalks: Options like a HAWK signal do not meet highway standards and regulations and are not allowable at this intersection or at nearby crosswalks. Rapid flashing beacons cannot be used at this intersection and would not provide timed, protected crossings at nearby crosswalks.
  • A roundabout will encroach on abutting homes, require considerable taking of private property, and reduce the Farmers’ Market area space by 11,700 square feet. The hilly topography at this intersection would demand an enormous, expensive grading effort. Traffic volumes are too high at this intersection for a smaller single-lane roundabout.
Current Woburn St / Mass Ave configuration

A roundabout is not feasible at this intersection. Click to enlarge.

Next: Traffic Mitigation

Friends of the Lexington Center Streetscape Project | Lexington, MA