Woburn eligible for $16.7m downtown overhaul | East Middlesex

ByShannon J. Cortes

May 6, 2022

Offered a chance to treat its downtown as a blank canvas, Woburn is all but assured of a $16.7 million check to completely redesign its downtown.

At an April meeting at Woburn City Hall, Mayor Scott Galvin informed city council that the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has already agreed to set aside millions of dollars for a traffic improvement in the center of Woburn to reduce the number of pedestrians and vehicles. accidents in the heart of the city.

With this Transportation Improvement Fund (TIP) allocation set to be released in fiscal year 2025, Woburn’s leaders and citizens are left to figure out exactly how to implement these improvements.

And as Galvin and the consultants at World Tech Engineering explained during the recent City Council discussion, they anticipate that the public debate on this final solution could prove interesting in the months to come.

“This project will require a bit of public input as we expect some major changes from it,” said Galvin, who nevertheless hailed the venture as a transformative and unique opportunity for the community.

“We have extended the project to all branches of the Woburn Center”, then explained the president of WorldTech, Rich Benevento. “It’s the Cadillac of [downtown improvement opportunities]… We’re really looking to get Woburn Center back. Instead of being a must for people from Stoneham to Lexington Center, we want this area to become a destination.

The massive $16.7 million improvement project is rooted in a 2017 proposal by the Woburn’s Redevelopment Authority (WRA) to reconfigure the busy crossroads around Woburn Common by City Hall, the historic Pleasant Street Library and the popular restaurants and shops clustered around Woburn Center’s ‘Busy Bend’.

Citing a 2014 road improvement study, World Tech officials originally proposed spending around $350,000 to add 12 to 22 parking spaces to Woburn Common by blocking off or making Common Street by City Hall a street. one-way.

Meanwhile, Pleasant Street, which is currently open to one-way traffic from Winn Street or two Main Street branches, would be reconfigured as a two-way thoroughfare. Another design element included the addition of a traffic light at the intersection of Pleasant, Main, and Winn streets. Combined with the addition of a pedestrian-friendly traffic island, the new signal would help ease two-way traffic from Winn Street to Main Street towards Woburn’s South End and Winchester.

The following year, WorldTech appeared before City Council to unveil revised concept plans which included a “common street bypass” option, which would allow vehicles heading from the Four Corners area towards Woburn Center to continue using Common Street to head either straight onto Montvale Avenue or right onto Main Street towards the South End.

As evidenced by Ward 2 Councilor Richard Gately’s comments earlier this month, many townspeople were unhappy with these concept plans.

“You will be in my parish when you do most of this work. Disruptions to roads, businesses and sidewalks are going to be difficult. I don’t like the idea of ​​the roads being changed, or the idea that the trucks can go up Winn Street and cut all the way south to Main Street,” he remarked.

“Woburn is a funny town. We don’t like a lot of change. I hope you are ready for this,” the senior member of the city council later warned.

Acknowledging the lukewarm reception of these 2018 proposals, which also included the addition of a corner car park in front of the Woburn Common, WorldTech officials explained that the mayor subsequently authorized a road safety audit which analyzed the traffic patterns all around the Woburn Center.

Ultimately, Benevento explained, this study only underscored a broader need for a myriad of safety improvements, as the entire downtown area was identified not only as one of 200 main accident sites in the Mass. DOT, but also as a place where pedestrians and cyclists are usually hit by cars.

With this analysis sent to the Mass Dept. of Transportation (MassDOT) and DFO Boston for an analysis of project funding, local officials, despite unveiling a handful of concept improvement plans, quickly learned that the Woburn Center improvement project had been accelerated for some $16.68 million in funding.

“There are a lot of accidents involving pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. You can see it basically involves the whole of Woburn Center,” Benevento explained at last month’s town hall meeting, pointing to a color map showing a crash cluster that takes up the entire downtown area. city.

“The Woburn Center project [in March of 2020] scored the highest of all other Boston DFO protests in terms of need. So even though we haven’t even submitted a 25% design yet, they have now funded this project. This is generally unheard of.

Seeking to submit these 25% design plans to the Mass. Department of Transportation (MassDOT) this fall, city officials expect a public debate in the coming months between area merchants, cycling advocates, transit users and shoppers of all days. and commuters.

According to Benevento, some of the key aspects of the final improvement plan will likely include the following:

• New cycling facilities, including the potential addition of full cycle lanes along the shoulders of Main Street;

• Installation of new traffic lights;

• A safer travel pattern for vehicles traveling around Woburn Common;

• Addition of new concrete sidewalks with ADA compliant ramps and granite curbs;

• New streetscapes to beautify the landscape around the downtown shopping centre;

• And parking changes which could include new time restrictions, adding additional spaces or removing public parking to allow for expanded MBTA access and walkways.

Already, at least one city official has officially opposed the inclusion of full bike lanes along Main Street and other major roads in Woburn Center.

According to Ward 4 Councilor Joseph Demers, while MassDOT officials generally require expanded access for cyclists for any state-funded road project, he is concerned that bike lanes may actually create new public safety issues.

“I hope we hold our ground and don’t put cycle lanes in the corridor of the Woburn Center. With [parked motorists] opening their car doors [right into those bike lanes] and the kids using them, it creates a lot more movement,” Demers said.