Park Ave., Revere, Wollaston. / Google image via Adam Auster source: google and apple maps Note how Paul Revere Road zigzags across Park, contributing to a complicated traffic pattern.Complex configuration at Park Avenue, Paul Revere and Wollaston. / Google, Apple Maps image via Adam Auster

After several recent accidents at the Park Avenue/Wollaston Street/Paul Revere Road intersection, resulting in one serious injury, the Select Board unanimously voted at its Jan. 22 meeting to receive a 1,076-person signed petition requesting pedestrian safety improvements.

This intersection is near the Park Avenue Congregational Church, 50 Paul Revere Road, Arlington Heights, just south of Mass. Ave.

In addition to these recent incidents, more than 70 accidents have occurred over the past three years along Park Avenue, according to the Rev. Leah Lyman Waldron, Park Avenue church pastor.

Petition seeks safe speed limit

The petition asks for enforcement of a safe speed limit along Park, as well as quick-build strategies – such as bollards to decrease pedestrian-crossing distances – to prevent further accidents. To see the petition, click here >>  

In his Word on the Street blog, Pct. 20 Town Meeting member Adam Auster reported a second pedestrian struck Jan. 1 at the crosswalk.

This section of Park Avenue is steep, and drivers approaching Mass. Ave. from Route 2 need to be aware of the need to drive more slowly, Auster wrote.

Earlier this month, the town installed new signs at the two Park Avenue crosswalks, and a police cruiser is at the site daily during peak travel times to provide increased enforcement and additional education, said Town Manager Jim Feeney. 

At the meeting, Waldron, who lives nearby, said she’s seen lots of accidents there over the years. “I would love 2024 to be when we take action to make Park Avenue safer for all,”  she said. “There have been four accidents since November, including the serious accident of Linda Cohn,” a retired schoolteacher and active church member.

Joseph Solomon, Dallin School Parent-Teacher Organization co-president and Pct. 16 Town Meeting member, said this has been an ongoing issue. “When we opened the petition, it gave people the opportunity for open feedback, because people don’t feel safe in their community. 

“The program [to change the intersection] costs $2 million. We don’t have that money, so [we] instead recommend a quick-build solution,” outlined in the slide presentation Solomon and Waldron gave at the meeting. See it here >> 

“This area clearly needs to be addressed,” added Solomon. 

Neighborhood residents express concerns

Arlington native Henry Cohn, whose mother, Linda, was injured Nov. 19, said, “I don’t want anyone else to go through what my mother has gone through for the past nine weeks,” requiring intense rehabilitation. “I hope her accident offers a chance to do this.”

David Morrissette, who said he saw Cohn get hit that day, said, “It really affected me. I urge the Select Board to do something.”

Grant Cook, who lives in the neighborhood, said the area’s layout is conducive to cars going fast. “We have options to try other things to see how they work out. My son is forbidden to cross at that intersection.”

Margie Bell, who lives directly across from the church, said that more needs to be done. “It’s shocking that it’s taking so long, with an acceleration of accidents in the last few months. This is long overdue,” she said.

Carol Luddecke, who also lives nearby, said she has lots of experience hearing crashes and screeching brakes. “I’m happy we’re having this conversation and hope we can make something happen,” she said.

Auster, who lives four houses up from the intersection, said he appreciates how quickly the town has responded with signs, education, redesign and police presence. He asked the board, “Would you consider funding some quick-fill measures? People are driving worse than they were 10 years ago, and I’m glad it’s on the table.”

Vincent Baudoin, a Pct. 1 Town Meeting member, said that in recent years, there are new opportunities for driver distraction, such as smartphones and other mobile devices. “Vehicles are larger and heavier, which makes accidents more severe. The solutions are in our reach. We need to keep vehicle times slower so that drivers have time to react. If the solutions here are successful, perhaps we can use them in other parts of town.”

Town officials’ feedback

Select Board logo

Feeney said he’s looking into ways to provide additional funding to improve road safety across Arlington. “This is a priority for the town,” he said. “Arlington has a number of special speed regulations. If we consider it for one particular roadway, it may be something to look at holistically, and I want to take a more permanent approach to our traffic-safety issues. We’re looking into ways to see what other enhancements can be made.

“We first need to do more data collection and analysis to determine what exactly to build," Feeney continued. “A number of other intersections are along this path, so I’m reluctant to commit to anything before considering other potential solutions, such as lights, paint, bollards and flashing lights. A lot of moving pieces and considerations need to be made."

Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth is grateful to the residents who made sure the board got the message regarding the known history of accidents at all intersections along Park Avenue. “Even before cell phones and GPS’s, speed limits alone were not sufficient for safety. The road design has the most impact, and similar areas in town are confusing to a lot of people.” 

He continued: “There’s been a cultural shift and evolution in town, such as no speed bumps anymore. I urge that we follow the trends we’ve seen recently. We have the budget and personnel to implement countermeasures, and [I] hope we’re ready to contemplate change.”

Board Vice Chair John Hurd said it’s a tough problem, because Park Avenue was built much wider than it should have been. “We’re acutely aware of the problems of this intersection, and hopefully we can implement those changes.”

Board member Steve DeCourcey wants to make this a priority: “A lot is going on at this intersection, such as distracted driving. We got the message, and we’re committed.”

Board member Diane Mahon believes that the petition is a great demonstration of the town’s government and its residents. “I read every name on the petition. This is a serious issue, and my No. 1 concern is the pedestrians. We’re committed to short-term solutions that are a temporary fix, but maybe they can become permanent solutions. The other big thing is money.”

Watch ACMi video of Jan. 22, 2024, meeting:

Board member Len Diggins said, “Hopefully we can get more resources to commit to making these improvements. It’s not the lack of caring or awareness.”

 Jan. 4, 2024: Town implements traffic-safety measures following  recene pedestrian-injury accidents
Jan. 11, 2024: More than 1,000 sign petition seeking traffic-safety measures on Park Avenue

This news summary by YourArlingon freelancer Susan Gilbert was published Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, and updated to add an ACMi video window.