Lexington Center Streetscape Project
What is the history of the Streetscape Project?
- As part of the 2003 Comprehensive Plan for Lexington, Town officials commissioned a town-wide analysis of traffic patterns and safety concerns. The report named Woburn St / Mass Ave as a priority intersection needing changes in both layout and traffic control.
2006 - 2009
- In 2006, 2007, and 2008, the Town improved various stretches of sidewalk along Mass Ave in Lexington Center.
- Rather than continue doing piecemeal sidewalk improvements in the Center, the Town elected to develop a master sidewalk plan for the Center Business District.
- Later in the year, a report commissioned by the Town to analyze the condition of all the roadways in Lexington revealed that Mass Ave in the Center was in poor condition.
- Combining the idea of a sidewalk master plan with the need to rebuild the Mass Ave roadway, the Town’s Department of Public Works and the Economic Development Office started developing concept plans for the Center Streetscape.
- The Town engaged Pressley Associates, a design firm specializing in historic landscapes, to assist with this work.
- A working group made up of staff, committee representatives, and residents was created to help shepherd the project along.
- Pressley Associates led four public workshops engaging numerous residents in exercises and discussions to conceptualize a plan for Lexington Center. The plan would address basic infrastructure, public safety, inclusion and ADA-compliance, and landscape design.
- Improvements for the Lexington Center streetscape became part of the Town’s five-year capital plan.
- In September, a community conversation about the Center Streetscape was widely publicized and hosted by the League of Women Voters. More than one hundred residents attended.
At a public meeting on December 6, 2011,
the Town presented a
forty-seven page concept plan
that had been developed over the course of
the year with guidance from Pressley Associates.
- The concept plan was the culmination of a year of public outreach involving ten boards and committees, a League of Women Voters First Friday Forum, the four public information-gathering workshops, and two formal presentations to the Board of Selectmen.
- Throughout the process, which was led by architects, designers and city planners, hundreds of residents actively participated in exercises and discussions to offer their design input.
- The Lexington Minuteman published fourteen articles and notices about the Center Streetscape project.
- The 2011 Town of Lexington Annual Report was published. An aerial photo of Lexington Center appeared on the cover, with an inside caption reading, “A Center Streetscape Concept Plan has been proposed to replace the aging streetscape and infrastructure along Massachusetts Avenue and the Battle Green. Funding to implement the changes will be sought at a future Town Meeting.”
- The streetscape project was identified in the Town Warrant, which was sent to every household in Lexington.
- As described by the Capital Expenditures Committee’s report to Town Meeting, the project went well beyond sidewalk repair and included reconstruction of Mass Ave starting at Woburn St, removal and replacement of the forty-year-old brick sidewalk on the Center’s north side, replacement or refurbishing of aging street furniture, replacement of sick and dying trees that have reached the end of their expected lifespan, and achieving ADA compliance.
- In April, Town Meeting unanimously appropriated $240,000 for the initial design work for the Center Streetscape Project.
- The Capital Expenditure Committee’s five-year capital plan included a robust budget for the project.
- Two articles about the Project appeared in the Lexington Minuteman.
- With the Center Streetscape concept now defined through the community engagement and design work of Pressley Associates, the Town hired BETA Group, a traffic engineering and landscape architecture firm, to work with the Town’s engineers to further the traffic engineering aspects of Streetscape as well as the Battle Green Project (see below). Beta Group would conduct traffic studies and models and develop concept plans related to parking, traffic calming, and safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Over the course of the year, project developers met with the Tourism Committee and Lexington Historical Society, Lexington Chamber of Commerce, the Town’s Transportation Forum, the Center Committee, an accessibility representative, and the Board of Selectmen.
- A public meeting on Center Streetscape Preliminary Design Options was held on December 5 at St Brigid Church.
- One article appeared in the Lexington Minuteman about the project.
- The Town continued the initial design work, aiming to reach 25% design - the basic traffic engineering and safety outline of the project. Project developers met with the Commission on Disability, the Tourism Committee, property owners, and the Board of Selectmen (March 17 and October 6).
- A public meeting was held March 18 in Battin Hall of the Cary Memorial Building for community feedback.
- On October 6, the Board of Selectmen received and approved the plan at the 25% design phase.
- The Center Streetscape Project was again identified in the Town Warrant, sent to every household in Lexington. In April, Town Meeting approved $600,000 for completion of the design of the Project by a vote of 160 to 13.
- There were six articles in the Lexington Minuteman about the project.
- In April, Town Meeting voted on the proposal for Phase One of the Center Streetscape Project (covering the Woburn St intersection to the Town Office Building). The proposal included a borrowing request of $2.7 million to finance this first phase. The proposal received the support of the majority (97-64), but the measure did not pass because borrowing requires the support of ⅔ of Town Meeting. Objections to the plan involved its inclusion of traffic lights and questions about traffic impacts on adjacent neighborhoods.
- Next, the Board of Selectmen requested that the engineers re-examine the plan and explore suggestions offered by the public. The Board also committed to re-engaging with the community through another set of public meetings. The first of these widely publicized meetings was held on June 10 in the Clarke Middle School auditorium. It was attended by more than one hundred Lexington residents.
- Development of the project continued as the Town worked to bring the plans to the 75% and 100% design phases. The Historic District Commission and the Historical Commission were asked for, and gave, their input. The Board of Selectmen also provided input at the following meetings:
- The Center Streetscape Project continued to appear in the Capital Expenditure Committee’s five-year capital budget plan.
- Eighteen articles about the project appeared in the Lexington Minuteman.
The Town’s engineers, working with BETA Group’s
engineers and landscape architects, continued to move the plans
from 25% to 100% design. At a
held on January 12,
2016, in Battin Hall of the Cary Memorial Building, the
project’s landscape architects again sought community
feedback on design proposals. More than 100 residents
attended. The proposals built off of the Pressley concept plans
developed in 2011, including:
- sidewalks and crosswalks better designed, located, and lit for pedestrian safety
- ADA compliance and accommodations for those with disabilities
- improved seating opportunities
- cohesive design treatment throughout the Center from Woburn St to Meriam St in terms of lighting, landscaping, sidewalk-paving, street furniture, street art, and wayfinding
- new planters and replacement of dying trees
- additional bike racks
- better defined traffic merging and vehicular boundaries
- a safer and enhanced gateway to the Center at Woburn St
- Project developers met with the Lexington Historical Society on January 15.
A February report to the Board of Selectmen by Town staff stated that:
- the plan for the entire Center Streetscape was at the 25% design stage and, from an engineering standpoint, ready for Town Meeting.
- Phase One was defined as extending from the Woburn St intersection to about the Town Office Building. The exact boundaries for Phases Two and Three were not yet defined.
- the condition of the roadway in Phase One had further declined to 24 (on a scale with 100 being perfect condition), was beyond general rehabilitation, and required full reconstruction.
- the cost of the entire Center Streetscape Project (all three phases) was estimated at $8.5 million, an amount that included police details, construction oversight, and a 20% contingency.
- Also in February, to continue the work toward 100% design, the Board of Selectmen created the nine-member Center Streetscape Design Review ad hoc Committee. The committee was charged with making recommendations to the Selectmen on design elements such as the materials and street furniture that will finish off the Center Streetscape design.
- Phase One was again slated to come before Town Meeting. But in March, the Board of Selectmen unanimously decided to postpone the vote because an independent engineering firm hired to study the issue of cut-through traffic in neighborhoods surrounding the Woburn St intersection had found a potential problem. This temporary postponement of the vote allows the Town to develop traffic mitigation plans with input from neighborhood residents.
- The Center Streetscape safety recommendations include the elimination of right-turn only lanes on Mass Ave at Edison Way and Waltham St (right turns will still be allowed at these locations). The Board of Selectmen requested field testing of these plans, and also a test of turning Harrington Rd into a one-way street. Town engineers explained how the field tests will proceed at a public meeting on April 7. In May, the Selectmen voted to initiate the traffic trials. The trials will begin in August 2016 and run for three to four months. The results of these traffic trials will inform the final plans that will eventually come before Town Meeting.
- The Center Streetscape Project continued to appear in the Capital Expenditure Committee’s five-year capital budget plan.
- Within the first four months of the year, seventeen articles about the Project appeared in the Lexington Minuteman.
When will construction start?
Construction cannot begin until Town Meeting appropriates funding, which has not happened yet. Therefore no start date has been set.
Your help is needed to ensure that the Center Streetscape Project moves forward.
What is the timeline for the Battle Green Project and how is that project related to the Center Streetscape Project?
The Center Streetscape Project and the Battle Green Project are being developed concurrently through an open, public, transparent process by the Town’s engineers and by BETA Group, a traffic engineering and landscape design firm. When they are completed, both projects will blend and complement each other in terms of traffic flow, pedestrian and cyclist safety needs, ADA compliance, historic preservation, and landscape design.
Here is what has happened so far with the Battle Green Project:
A study of town commons across Massachusetts funded by a Historic Preservation Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management included Lexington’s Battle Green as part of the study. The landscape architecture and planning firm Walter Cudnohufsky Associates prepared recommendations for the Battle Green based on feedback from citizens gathered through a public charrette.
2002 - 2008
Citizen-led interest groups continued the process of developing a Master Plan for the Battle Green.
In March of 2009, the Board of Selectmen authorized the Tourism Committee to follow an approved process for completing a Battle Green Master Plan. The process was to involve interested staff, committees, and citizens, and included a public survey and multiple public hearings.
With an appropriation of $25,000 from the Community Preservation Fund, the Town hired the historic landscape design firm Past Designs to assist with the development of the Battle Green Master Plan. Plan developers reported regularly to the Board of Selectmen.
- In March, the Board of Selectmen approved the 117-page Battle Green Master Plan.
- Town Meeting appropriated $50,000 from the Community Preservation Fund toward Phase One of the Master Plan - the restoration of monuments.
- Town Meeting appropriated $143,845 from the Community Preservation Fund to address the paths around the Battle Green and Belfry Hill, granite at the Obelisk, and the fence at Ye Olde Burying Ground.
- Town Meeting appropriated $60,000 for a parking, pedestrian, and traffic study for the Battle Green area.
The Town hired BETA Group, a traffic engineering and landscape architecture firm, to conduct traffic studies and traffic modeling for both the Center Streetscape Project and the Battle Green Project, and to develop integrated concept plans related to parking, traffic calming, and safety for pedestrians and cyclists for both projects. The work was to include ways to enhance the access and visibility of the Battle Green’s historical sites and to relate the Battle Green Project to the overall Center Streetscape Project.
Town Meeting appropriated $90,000 for engineering services to develop plans and specifications at the 25% design level for improvements in parking, pedestrian safety, and traffic flow around the Battle Green.
Town Meeting appropriated $200,000 for the Town to hire an engineering and landscape architect firm to bring the Battle Green Project to 100% design.
In May, the Board of Selectmen voted to initiate traffic trials for both the Center Streetscape Project and the Battle Green Project. These trials will begin in August and run for three to six months. The outcome of the trials will inform the plans for both projects that will eventually come to Town Meeting.