The City Manager and staff have compiled answers to questions that are being asked about the Inman Square redesign. I am copy/pasting their FAQ below. It will be posted on the City website and when the link is available I will add it here.
Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project
Frequency Asked Questions – June 1, 2018
Q. Why is it necessary to make such significant changes to the intersection? Could we just improve the existing intersection as it is currently configured without changing Vellucci Plaza?
- The relocation of the plaza is driven by the need to create safer and more efficient intersection geometry. Currently, the Inman Square intersection operates very inefficiently due to its large size. The intersection is approximately 300’ wide on both Cambridge Street (Springfield Street to Antrim Street) and Hampshire Street (Inman Street to Antrim Street), while typical intersections in Cambridge are more in the 60’-80’ wide range (even for major crossings). This creates confusion, long undefined conflict zones between users, and the need for very long “all red” clearance times to allow vehicles on one street to clear the intersection, which is highly inefficient.
- By separating the intersections into two separate—but coordinated—intersections, we can significantly improve the efficiency of the operation. This then enables us to remove the third travel lane from Cambridge Street, which is the only way to create enough space to install separated bicycle lanes on Cambridge Street through Inman Square, without removing parking on both sides of the street.
- Without these changes in intersection geometry and operations, it would also not be possible to provide the additional safer crosswalks, safer bike crossings, and clearly defined conflict points that are key aspects of the Vision Zero elements of the projects. At the same time, we are able to balance out retaining parking to support the local businesses, as well as providing a transit priority treatment for the Cambridge Street bus (MBTA Route 69).
Q. There were 8 crashes in Inman Square in 2017, which is lower than the average yearly number in the original traffic study (13-14 crashes/year). Is crash data available for the first five months of this year in Inman? Are crash statistics available for 2017 in other high conflict areas in Cambridge?
- Citywide statistics for 2017 show a general decline in crashes of approximately 17%.
- The Police Department is looking at analyzing the trends at other high crash locations and we will provide any additional analysis when it is available.
- 2018 year to date data is not available and we typically do not analyze partial years, as it becomes too short a time period for statistical significance and may not reflect seasonal variations in crash patterns.
- Cambridge Police Department diverted significant resources to Inman Square in 2017 to enforce the new turn restrictions, which had a positive benefit on safety and compliance with traffic regulations, however, it is not sustainable over the long-term.
Q. A number of residents, mostly elderly, disabled, or those with young children have expressed concern about the cycle track concept and having the cyclists on the same level as the sidewalk. Is the design definitely going to include a sidewalk level cycle track? Are there options to address these concerns?
- The design includes vertical elements separating bike lane and sidewalk wherever possible, including trees, signs, streetlights, and other features. Along the edge of the majority of plaza spaces, planters will provide physical separation, except at pedestrian crossing points. In addition, the cycle track drops down to street level at the point where it crosses pedestrian paths, to provide a very clear indication of where different modes should be traveling.
- We will continue to look for additional opportunities to emphasize the separation between pedestrian and bicycle space, while continuing to be mindful of maintenance needs such as sweeping and snow clearance.
Q. Will there be bicycle signals lights at the crosswalks to address potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists?
- Bike signals will be provided at all locations where bike lanes enter the intersection. Most pedestrian crossings will provide a pedestrian refuge between the bike lane and the roadway, allowing pedestrians to safely wait prior to crossing with the pedestrian signal.
- At locations where bike lanes approach crosswalks, yield markings will be provided to emphasize the need for cyclists to yield to pedestrians.
Q. Will all of the facilities be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? How will the connection from the sidewalk adjacent to the CHA/Punjabi Dhaba to the two crosswalks at Hampshire Street be handled?
- The plaza areas, as well as related sidewalks and ramps, will be fully compliant with Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB) requirements. Open spaces sometimes have adjacent separate sidewalks and other times do not (for example the Cambridge Common or Hastings Square). The consultant design team, as well as DPW review staff, includes Professional Engineers that are experts in the design of ADA compliant pedestrian facilities.
- The intersection and plaza designs have been reviewed with the Executive Director of the City’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CPD), who supports the design; the significant improvements to accessibility; and the approach to full ADA and MAAB compliance. Design staff will continue to consult with CPD as further detailed design progresses.
- The connections between the CHA/Punjabi Dhaba sidewalk and the Hampshire Street sidewalks includes ADA compliant paths, which will be clearly defined and potentially use different materials.
Q. What is the plan for drop offs to the CHA, particularly for those with disabilities?
- We are working with the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) to see if they are willing to add ADA spaces in their lot. People dropping off will most likely utilize the driveway.
Q. What is the current plan for the driveways on Hampshire Street on the north side of the square? Have there been any conversations with the owner of the building where “Pita” is housed on Springfield Street to see if we can rent access to their driveway to enter the CHA lot instead of from Hampshire Street?
- The driveways on Hampshire Street are pre-existing and therefore cannot be eliminated without the property owners’ agreement. They are both very low-volume, low-conflict operations serving the Cambridge Health Alliance parking lot with approximately 8 parking spaces and the Naveo Credit Union parking lot with approximately 12 parking spaces (which operates as an “entry only” driveway).
- We have not had any discussions regarding this possibility. It would require negotiating the access agreement and it’s not clear that it’s possible to create an access through the back of the property, even if the owner of the “Pita” building is willing to allow access.
Q. How are the designs for the project being developed?
- The City has retained multiple consulting firms that are working as a team to develop the design under City oversight, including experts in roadway design, bicycle and pedestrian planning, landscape architecture, urban design, and public engagement.
Q. When do you expect to seek additional public feedback?
- This design reflects feedback to date, and we look to have a meeting in late summer or fall to continue to hear more reaction to the design.
Q. What is the current status of the permitting and project approvals? What is the current status of project funding?
- Permitting and design are typically concurrent processes. For example, during the tree removal hearing process, we committed to not removing the trees until all approvals are in place. We are continuing with the various stages of permitting, but the project can’t begin until all of the required permits are in place.
- Tree Removal Approval Process
- April 10, 2018: Tree Removal Hearing
- April 20, 2018: Tree Removal Hearing Recommendation issued
- Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission (MCNCDC)
- May 7, 2018: MCNCDC Hearing
- May 15, 2018: MCNCDC issuance of Certificate of Appropriateness filed with City Clerk, MC-5412
- May 21, 2018: City received 10-citizen appeal of MCNCDC Decision
- June 7, 2018: Historical Commission will hear the appeal at 6 pm at Senior Center. The Historical Commission will review the records of the proceeding to determine whether due-process requirements have been observed and to determine whether the Commission was arbitrary or capricious in making its determination. It will not re-hear the case and will not substitute its judgement for that of the MCNCDC. The Historical Commission can uphold the determination of the MCNCDC, or it can return the matter for a new hearing.
- From the MCNCDC Decision:
- Article 97 Home Rule Petition
- Requires two thirds vote of City Council and two thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature.
- May 21, 2018: Home Rule Petition sent to City Council. Charter Right exercised by Councillor Zondervan
- June 4, 2018: Will be on Council Agenda again
- July 31, 2018: End of State Legislative Session
- Conservation Commission Approval
- Based on the City Solicitor’s discussion with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA), this requirement only applies in municipalities where the Conservation Commission has control over municipally owned open space, which is not the case in Cambridge.
- The City Council will need to appropriate funding for the project prior to bidding the project.
Q. What are comparative areas for the current and future plaza spaces? Do these areas include the driveway areas on the north side of the square?
- Current Vellucci Plaza
- Area=6,480 square feet. This is the size of the parcel that makes up Vellucci Plaza that was taken by eminent domain in January 21, 1980, for “public recreation open space” purposes and is confirmed on the stamped surveyed plan. The original taking and deed cite 6,462 square feet, but our recent re-survey of the property has confirmed its area to actually be 6,480 +/- square feet.
- New Vellucci Plaza
- West Plaza (to remain) = 2,679 square feet
- East Plaza = 3,801 square feet (not inclusive of driveways)
- Total = 6,480 square feet
- These areas were calculated by a Professional Engineer during the concept phase and then a stamped plan was created by a Professionally Licensed Surveyor.
- The proposed Article 97 area does not include the driveways nor is it interrupted by the driveways. The entirety of the plaza is located south of these driveways and thus is not negatively impacted by vehicles entering or exiting the driveways.
Q. What is the current timeline for construction? Is there anything the City can do to tighten this time line?
- At the last community meeting, staff briefly discussed the anticipated construction schedule of 18 to 24 months. We are updating the schedule as we further refine the design and develop traffic management plans.
- There are trade-offs between providing the contractor with more space to work so they can complete the project sooner vs. restricting the contractor’s work zones to minimize the impact during construction, but lengthening the duration of the construction.
- DPW will work with the businesses and the Inman Square Business Association on mitigation strategies. Some initial thoughts include co-sponsoring events and community outreach efforts encouraging residents to support the local businesses during construction.