By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The Northborough Planning Board welcomed members of the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) for a traffic presentation at its Feb. 16 meeting. CMRPC’s focus was on balancing traffic impact and economic development, mitigating the impacts of truck traffic on residential areas, and general recommendations on traffic management strategies.
CMRPC Executive Director Janet Pierce, Transportation Deputy Director Sujatha Krishnan, Deputy Director Regional Collaboration and Community Planning Trish Settles, and Transportation Planner Eric Gemperline were part of the panel. CMRPC serves 40 surrounding communities and brings a regional perspective to planning and development.
Bartlett Street is viewed as a corridor as it runs from Route 20 in Northborough and continues through Marlborough, with street name changes, before reconnecting to Route 20.
Gemperline walked the corridor and observed limited shoulders and no sidewalks in the area on Bartlett Street east of Algonquin Regional High School. The bike lanes and sidewalks appear when you cross the border to Marlborough.
“I want to stress that there is a missing link where there is no sidewalk and creating some sort of pedestrian connectivity would really strengthen that corridor,” he said.
Gemperline also observed “the sheer amount of large trucks and in some cases it made it feel a little precarious while walking.”
The scariest part of his walk was from Lyman Street near the conservation area towards Bartlett Street. He said he was in the snow banks “multiple times as large trucks came barreling through.”
Northborough has seen a lot of development since the last traffic counts were done. CMRPC will return in the spring to collect new data.
Crash data from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation did not show crash clusters on Bartlett Street. A high crash location was noted at the intersection of Route 20 and Bartlett Street.
Krishnan said that location may be eligible for federal funding available through the Highway Safety Improvement Program if any infrastructure improvements are made.
A Post Occupancy Monitoring Study was recommended to obtain real data once facilities like Amazon are situated.
There would be benefit to bring all stakeholders together for a corridor walk audit, discussion of observations and categorization of solutions. CMRPC would facilitate.
Krishnan said 75 percent of communities have adopted some part of a complete streets policy, where streets are suitable for all users. While Westborough, Southborough, Marlborough and Shrewsbury are working on this status, Northborough is not.
“I think moving towards complete streets is a good solution so you can actually look at your entire community,” she said.
This would align with the transportation section of the town’s Master Plan.
A lot of communities in the region have a Roadway Advisory Committee and Economic Development Committee to look at issues and situations in conjunction with each other.
“Economic development and traffic happen hand in hand,” said Krishnan. “You cannot really have one without the other. You need to figure out how to coexist and balance this.”
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