Select Board Takes a Look at Walkers Brook Drive

Reading, MA — Wing Wong and Jayson Gauvin of Green International Affiliates presented their Walkers Brook Drive traffic study and improvement concepts to the Select Board on February 16. Wong began by sharing Walkers Brook Drive’s challenges, specifically the intersections where General Way and Lakeview Avenue connect to the roadway. 

Several optional plans were presented at each problem location, with a preferred option recommended to the board. Wong reported that Walkers Brook Drive is a challenge for bicycles and pedestrians to navigate and suggested that shared-use paths are a preferred solution that would create space for bicycles and pedestrians while causing the least amount of disruption for the road.

Several options were presented for the Walkers Brook/General Way/Lakeview Street area, with a rotary offered as the best option to improve the roadways’ safety and operations. Still, a signalized option was suggested as the best overall option as it limits the amount of land taking and other factors that would be challenging to the project.

The intersection of Washington Street and Main Street was presented as a high crash area, and Gauvin pointed out the lack of protected turn lanes as a possible cause. He recommended Main Street be modified to allow for left turn-only lanes with an improved traffic signal at the location.

Another high-crash location is at the intersection of Ash Street and Main Street. There is a lack of protected lanes at this location, with many vehicle conflict points. There is also a long pedestrian crossing with no protection island available. To add to the issues at this location are two different railroad crossings. Gauvin suggested moving the location to where Ash Street intersects Main Street further south as a plan to mitigate the problems. This option is recommended, though the Massachusetts Department of Transportation prefers a rotary.  However, a rotary is prohibitive due to the high property acquisition level required for the rotary plan. Turn restrictions and raised intersections were also recommended to help reduce vehicle speeds on John Street.

Select Board member Vanessa Alvarado expressed appreciation for the work but questioned the cost of all the proposed improvements. “It makes me nervous.” She stated. 

Development Director Julie Mercier responded that there are multiple state and federal grants available to help defray the cost. Select Board Chair Mark Dockser also indicated that he wanted to make sure that any improvements at Main Street and Ash Street include a holistic approach, recognizing the potential impact on Ash Street of the possible “eastern gateway” area of development. Mercier noted that though there have been three years of work on this project, “This is the beginning of a pretty lengthy process ahead of us.”

The Select Board voted 5-0 to create a right turn only at the Joshua Eaton Elementary School Driveway onto Oak Street. Joshua Eaton, principal LisaMarie Ippolito, had suggested the change to aid safety and improve traffic flow at the site. The board also voted 5-0 to approve the change in manager for Bertucci’s restaurant.

The Board spent time reviewing changes to its communication policy, specifically on issues of “closing the loop” when a resident expresses a concern. The board voted 5-0 to approve the new policy.   The board intends to look more deeply into its policy regarding public records access on the town website.

The Select Board adjourned at 11:05 pm.

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