Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cheap and easy

Last week, the Traffic Council considered a speeding problem on Vernon and Chase Streets next to Bigelow Middle School and near Underwood Elementary School.

The picture above illustrates city traffic engineer Clint Schuckel's proposed changes to the street geometry. (The picture's from Mr. Schuckel's presentation.) The changes look great and are bound to make a much more pedestrian-friendly and safer intersection. Of particular note is the way the proposed changes shorten the crosswalks by bringing the various curbs closer to each other. (It ought to be a city goal to take 200 feet out of crosswalks each year.)

The proposed changes, which will probably cost tens of thousands, appear likely to be made, in large part, because there is money available, specifically CDBG money related to nearby Newton Corner. (I have no idea what CDBG stands for.)

But, what if it there were no money available? No response to the safety problem?

It's going to cost tens of thousands because the city is going to make the changes properly: granite curbs, relocated storm drains, pavement removal and new grass between the old curb and the new, new sidewalks with new curb cuts, &c.

The changes need to have the intended effect, however, could be done for low thousands. The intended effect is a function of the curb. Only. Cars are not going to go any slower because there's grass on the other side of the curb. The crosswalk isn't going to be longer because it ends with a new curb cut surrounded by grass.

All of the safety effects could be achieved with a bunch of concrete parking curbs, the kind you drive up against in a parking lot. Hammer a few of those suckers in the pavement along the new curb geometry and ... boom ... slowed cars. Leave gaps at the crosswalk and ... boom ... shorter crosswalks and new pedestrian safe zones.

(Mr. Schuckel mentioned rubber curbing that's more expensive, but probably still less than the standard buildout.)

The city is going to do things nicely at Vernon Street because it can. And, where there is money available, there's no reason to do things on the cheap.

But, where money is not available, there's no reason to forego pedestrian safety and comfort. Start with ugly curbs. Make it look pretty later.

Which raises yet another point: Concrete curbs could be dropped in much sooner than full construction can be scheduled. They'd make a great interim solution, even when the city has money to do it pretty.

Previously: Best v. Good

1 comment:

Aaron said...

looks like a good plan. too bad they always need to make these things so expensive and difficult...