Letters to The Editor Regarding new Intersection Project
In the murderous July heat, workers began rerouting water mains to make way for a new intersection at Pleasant and Village, and Vine streets. This roughly million dollar intersection redesign violates the commitments made by the Select Board and town officials to Marblead voters and residents to reduce our carbon footprint and provide safe routes for those who cannot, or prefer not, to drive.
On February 14, 2018, the Select Board voted to adopt and implement a Complete Streets policy. Complete Streets is a revolution in road and traffic engineering. For over 100 years, engineering orthodoxy held that roads belong to cars. Complete Streets, as stated in the town’s policy, instead recognizes that pedestrians, cyclists, and others “are legitimate users of streets and deserve safe facilities.”
Sustainable Marblehead’s then transportation committee chairwoman, Judith Black, cheered to the Marblehead Reporter: “The great news is that when our streets need work they will be reconstructed with all users in mind, so that walkers, cyclists and drivers will all have clear, welcoming streets to travel in.”
Alarmingly, given the biggest opportunity yet to put Complete Streets principles into practice, Marblehead’s government has done the opposite.
Select Board member Erin Noonan recently described the existing intersection to me as “notorious.” It is indeed notorious for its chaos, but it is not unsafe. A MassDOT review study counted zero fatal or injury crashes. There were eight very minor fender benders recorded over the course of two years (think broken taillight or creased fender).
In fact, it is the very chaos of this notorious intersection that has made it safe because drivers have to slow down and pay attention when they enter it. The town’s consulting engineer on the project, Frederick Moseley, made exactly this point when he told the Reporter, “The driver [entering from Village Street] has to keep an eye on traffic turning off Pleasant toward Vine or Village streets and the uncertainty of which way they’re going to go only adds to the chaos.” How dare we ask drivers to keep an eye on traffic when they have important texts to send!
Pedestrians will indeed have a more defined path through the intersection. The curbs will comply -- as required under state and federal law -- with the Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. But their new paths are much longer and walkers will be forced to make addtional street crossings.According to Town Engineer Douglas Quigley, there will be no walk signals or flashing beacons to make these crossings safer.
Cyclists have it worse. The proposed design shared with residents included a lane for people on bicycles. A representative of Santec, the town’s consulting engineers told me. Engineers subsequently revised their design to eliminate the bike lane. “Although the 6 foot shoulder is sufficient to sign as a bike lane, it was decided not to include bike lane signs/markings given the short length of the project.”
Finally, the backwards looking design will only perpetuate the town’s absurdly auto dependent, carbon-intensive transportation system. The town has more motor vehicles than drivers to drive them. Officials and many residents mistakenly believe that the town needs only to convince Marbleheaders to buy electric vehicles to reduce our transportation carbon footprint. That won’t work. And no, I don’t subscribe to the lies that EVs are as carbon intensive as gasoline cars.
It won’t work because Tesla drivers stand shoulder to shoulder with drivers of gasoline pickups and SUVs in wanting to own the road. All American drivers have been taught that the roads belong to them. Slow-going cyclists and pedestrians have the rail trail. Roads are for cars.
Fifty years from now the car-centric Vine-Village-Pleasant intersection will still be with us. It will still be inhospitable to vulnerable road users. Fifty years from now oppressive heat waves will be more frequent, longer lasting, and intense. Officials will warn against biking and walking the dog. Beginning construction of a “new and improved” intersection in the thick heat and humidity of July 2022 is therefore fitting. With no safe way to bike or pleasant streets to walk, Marbleheaders will have no choice but to ply the town’s roads in their air conditioned cars.
58 Leicester Road