Select Board Authorizes Redesign of Canton Street Corridor Plans (Updated)
Westwood’s Select Board unanimously decided on October 23rd to authorize its consultant, TEC, to undertake a redesign of plans for the Canton Street corridor, following two pieces of information: (1) comments from many residents who contest the currently proposed 25 percent design for reconstructing Canton Street; and (2) the willingness of MassDOT to entertain a changed design plan.
Select Board agreed to Department of Public Works Director Todd Korchin’s suggestion of the redesign that includes a shared use, concrete path, but which omits the separate sidewalk on the opposite side of the road that had been initially proposed. Select Board additionally imposed a cost cap of $100,000. The redesign costs will be taken from already allocated money for the sidewalk design. Funds authorized by voters in a town meeting for the project have not been fully expended, according to both Town Counsel Patrick Ahearn and Mr. Korchin.
Following the Select Board decision, one Canton Street resident told Westwood Minute that many abutters to the project are already angry, even before the redesign begins. They feel they have clearly indicated to the town that a shared use path is not acceptable to them.
At last month’s public meeting, many residents voiced disapproval of the existing 25 percent design plan for reconstructing Canton Street. As proposed in that plan, the project would include two 14 foot wide traffic lanes, a median strip, a 5.5 foot wide sidewalk, a 3.5 foot wide buffer zone, and a 10 foot wide shared use path. All of this would result in adding about 20 feet to the width of Canton Street, say the impacted residents.
Canton Street residents and abutters of the project have been taken aback by the large scale of the proposed project. They believe it would drastically change the current character of Canton Street.
Many residents in the Canton Street area would prefer a simple sidewalk, because it would best maintain the scenic character of the tree-lined street and its old stone walls. However, a sidewalk alone is unacceptable to MassDOT, according to Mr. Korchin, describing his conversations with MassDOT. What MassDOT finds acceptable is important. It goes to the question of whether the project will qualify for state funding.
Therefore, the redesign authorized by Select Board is expected to reflect a scaled-back version of proposed changes to Canton Street that are based on discussions between Westwood’s Department of Public Works and TEC with MassDOT. A shared use path must be included, reported Mr. Korchin to Select Board. The shared use path may vary in width from 8 to 10 feet wide. It would look just like the shared use path that currently exists on University Avenue, between the Route 128 train station and the Wegmans store, said Mr. Korchin. He described the shared use path as concrete and approximately 5 feet wide, with a buffer, which could be 2 to 4 feet wide. A 4 foot buffer would allow trees to be planted, said Mr. Korchin. The comment about planting trees appears to be responsive to residents' concern that the project will remove many old trees.
TEC consultant Jon Rockwell indicated that he will create a redesign that includes a shared use path that is consistently 8 foot wide. He intends to leave it to MassDOT to identify areas where the path could be widened to 10 feet without impacting residents.
“We hosted a constructive meeting. We heard the residents loud and clear that most, if not all, in opposition wanted accommodation of some sort,” said Mr. Korchin. “Obviously, the preference is a sidewalk, but this is our ability to show that the shared use path is very similar to a sidewalk. It’s been perceived as a third lane. It’s not a third lane. It would be constructed the same way that a sidewalk is constructed, used with concrete material, not asphalt. We could tint the concrete. We just want to provide the residents a final opportunity to see what we’re able to get the state to adhere to, on our end, on our terms, as much as we could,” explained Mr. Korchin.
Mr. Korchin suggested that the redesign would be “the best case scenario." He calls the initial design, which drew so much public opposition, “the worst case scenario.” He proposed that Select Board consider the options side by side when deciding whether to move forward.
Select Board Chair Marianne LeBlanc Cummings remarked that along with the redesign, a working group should be established that includes community members who are directly impacted by the project. Westwood's Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee had previously recommended a similar type of working group.
Select Board Clerk Robert Gotti characterized the Canton Street corridor project as a safety project. He questioned what other steps might help reduce the traffic on the street.
Mr. Korchin suggested that making the street unappealing for large vehicles would help to reduce traffic volume. The reduction of lane widths, raised intersections, and granite curbing all could help deter truck traffic, he said.
Updated 11/3/2023. Clarifying edits have been added to a statement that the redesign contains no sidewalk. The redesign will have a wide, concrete path that some might liken to a sidewalk, but it does not include the sidewalk that was initially proposed to be located on the opposite side of the road. Additionally, a reference to Robert Gotti as "Select Board Chair" has been corrected to "Select Board Clerk."