WINCHESTER - Toole Design Group updated the Select Board on two projects concerning the McCall Middle School: Main Street at Washington Street and Mystic Valley Parkway at Waterfield Road.
Town Meeting recently voted $500,000 for traffic improvements in the area of the McCall Middle School to go along with the expansion project that’s currently underway that will add six classrooms, plus expand the cafeteria. The plans should increase pedestrian safety, encourage more walking to school and install better and safer bike path connections.
So far, Toole has held stakeholder meetings, met with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, met with the Select Board this past June, met with the School Committee, held a site walk, and met with Mass. Historical Commission last week.
The plans have reached the 100 percent design phase for Main Street at Washington Street, but only the 75 percent design phase for Mystic Valley Parkway at Waterfield Road. The cost for both projects should exceed $1.1M with the Mystic Valley Parkway at Waterfield Road intersection running $755,000 alone. Both projects include a 20-30 percent contingency.
Toole discussed the intersections and said they’re still working out some kinks including bike lanes and drop-off zones. They did add a left turn lane on Mystic Valley Parkway and widened the road for a bike lane. Toole noted construction documents are at 75 percent and should be submitted by mid-October. DCR said they want to review.
The design group said they hope to bid the project out in the middle of winter and start construction in the spring. One question they brought up concerned bidding the projects individually or together. The bidding process could be more competitive if the projects are bundled.
One abutter who lives on Washington Street, Ross Thompson, expressed excitement at the prospects of improving the area in front of his house. He mentioned the many near accidents in the area, suggesting the proposed curbing will make people slow down.
“This is absolutely the right thing to do,” he exclaimed, though noted he’s a little sad about the price tag.
Select Board Chair Mariano Goluboff remarked the price tag keeps increasing each time the board puts off the project.
The board had a few questions including Amy Shapiro wondering how the Waterfield Road work would affect upcoming bridge work also on Waterfield Road. Toole said they would tie both projects together.
Susan Verdicchio asked about lowering the speed limit on Main Street from 35 MPH to 25 MPH. Town Engineer Beth Rudolph said because the speed limit is 35 MPH it’s a state-controlled regulatory speed limit. In order to change it, the town would need to do a speed study; however, the study would change the speed to how fast 85 percent of the drivers are going.
Verdicchio also inquired about widening the west side of Main Street and shrinking an island on the east side of the road to give the bike lane more room (it’s currently proposed at 11 ft.). Toole expressed concerns about making it too wide.
“We don’t want bikes to fly through here, either,” they said.
DPW Director Jay Gill said that bike lane will eventually connect Main Street to Medford.
Toole did note the new design won’t necessarily improve congestion, but it should make it easier to navigate Main Street at Washington Street. They also noted, when asked by Select Board member Jacqueline Welch about restricting left turns from Washington Street onto Main Street, they preferred cars on Washington Street and not just Main Street.
Both of these projects will be on the Town Meeting warrant.