Update: Lexington’s Plans for Hartwell Avenue

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An architect’s rendering showing a new vision for Hartwell Avenue in Lexington

 

At their September 22 meeting, Bedford Planning Board members expressed interest and concern about the long-term impact of changes on traffic volume and economic development in the town should new development go forward along Hartwell Avenue in Lexington.

Carol Kowalski, Lexington’s assistant town manager for development, said many of the specifics regarding rezoning property on Hartwell Avenue and changes in the traffic patterns on Routes 4/225 are still being refined.

The Lexington Select Board has been clear that Bedford officials are to be kept informed of our public meetings and events” around changes proposed for the Hartwell Avenue-Bedford Street corridor.

The goals have been discussed for years. Lexington officials want to expand the potential for development on Hartwell to enhance the local tax base. Traffic improvements are central to fully realize those grand plans.

Indeed, “there has been a placeholder in the state’s long-range transportation plan for a long time,” Kowalski said. To maintain that schedule, she said, and ensure the availability of federal money, town meeting has dedicated funds to begin design.

Kowalski said plans are to “bring in an engineering firm with a community engagement specialist to get a concept recommended to the Select Board, with public input required.”

Changes discussed several years ago centered on roundabouts at the jug handle intersection of Hartwell Avenue and Bedford Street and at the Route 128 interchange. There was concern in Bedford about a resulting backup, and subsequently, the idea for roundabouts was abandoned.

However, they could be back on the table, Kowalski said, as the state Department of Transportation has reversed its earlier opposition.

Other components discussed included a barrier separating the eastbound and westbound lanes on Bedford Street as well as bicycle accommodations.

Hartwell Avenue rezoning plans are also not yet definite, but Kowalski said the objective is “to make the commercial district more 21st century, to provide more of what businesses are looking for.” It’s a complicated district, she pointed out, with easement and wetland considerations.

A citizen’s initiative petition has been filed by a resident to revise the zoning, Kowalski said. The proposal will be addressed at a special town meeting this month; it was originally on last spring’s annual meeting warrant and has delayed the town’s initiative, she acknowledged.

There’s also a further consideration. The corridor is part of a Lexington transportation management overlay district, which involves input from employers on commuters’ travel choices. Kowalski said the transportation management plan that defined the district is almost implemented. New developers can’t be expected to buy into a plan that is complete, so a request for quotes is expected for updating the demand management plan.

Since the discussion of traffic changes began, there have been some objections from residents on the northeast side of Bedford Street, Kowalski said. “There has been some opposition to any change. People just want you to get rid of the traffic,” she said. “We want to make it safe for bicycles and pedestrians.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763
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