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Winchester approves redesign for Cross and Forest streets

Designs for the intersection of Cross and Forest streets were approved by town officials after community input. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NELL ESCOBAR COAKLEY

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After much discussion, community input and some retooling, the Select Board approved a plan to redesign the intersection of Cross and Forest streets during its June 17 meeting.

Residents had much to say earlier this month when Erica Guidoboni, of Toole Design, presented a plan to rehab the busy intersection.

What they heard:

• Questions about count data

• Desire for slower speeds

• Desire for no parking here to corner at 87-89 Cross St.

• Concern for safety crossing Forest Street

• Explore left-turn restriction

• Explore quick-build materials (flexposts, etc.) or truck aprons

• Explore mini roundabout or neighborhood traffic circle

• Questions about Cross Street at Holton Street

“So what we heard was quite a bit,” Guidoboni said.

Guidoboni said she wanted to sort out the traffic count data since some residents questioned the findings. She said the original count was done in May 2019 and it showed vehicles traveling an average of 28 mph through the intersection.

An overview of the Cross and Forest streets intersection. COURTESY PHOTO/TOWN OF WINCHESTER

The town engineer did a quick count last week as well and the speeds were “really similar to five years ago,” Guidoboni said.

The turning movement counts were done in December 2023 and that traffic peaked between 7:45 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. and again at 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Guidoboni said she did explore the idea of a mini roundabout, which is different from a traffic calming circle, but neither would be viable for the area. The intersection doesn’t have the traffic volume to warrant a calming circle, which is “literally a circle in the middle of the street, they don’t change any of the approaches to the intersection,” Guidoboni said, adding it’s also too small for a mini roundabout.

She also called a raised crosswalk infeasible and flex posts an OK idea, but what she did recommend is a refuge island in the middle of the Forest Street crosswalk. She said it’s something they think is a great countermeasure for safety at the location.

A look at a possible refuge island for the Forest Street crossing. COURTESY PHOTO/TOWN OF WINCHESTER

A refuge island allows pedestrians to focus on traffic in one direction at a time by giving them a safe place to wait for a gap in traffic before finishing the crossing. Guidoboni said it would be about 6 feet wide and she believes, will slow vehicles that are turning, “quite a bit. It’s a pretty noted traffic calming measure.”

Guidoboni made a number of other recommendations, including moving forward with current design with the following updates:

• Build the pedestrian refuge island at Forest Street Crossing

• Install “Yield to pedestrians” signage

• Install no parking signage, including at 87-89 Cross St.

• Mark additional pavement markings along curb line

• Install additional clearance signage

• Install advisory 20 mph speed limit signage at speed humps on Cross Street.

She also shared changes that will be coming to Cross Street at Holten Street:

• A rapid flashing beacon for crossing Cross Street and on the west side of Lowell and Holton, where there is a crosswalk now.

• New curbs and curb ramps and sidewalk repairs in the area.

• Stop signs/stop bars installed at Holten and East streets, where currently there is no signage.

• Do not block the box signage.

A look down Cross Street, where sidewalks are currently under construction. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NELL ESCOBAR COAKLEY

Project mission?

Bill McGonigle, who is newly elected to the Select Board, asked what exactly was the mission of the redesign project.

“Did we come at this with the top priority being increased pedestrian safety, and was that our guiding star as you were looking at all these different potential enhancements? Or was your priority to move traffic as fast as possible?” he asked. “So this seems like a really silly question, but I think those are very important questions to ask at the start and I wasn’t here for that.”

Guidoboni said she’s been working projects in town for a few years and when she started she asked the same question.

“They were like pedestrian safety is the number one priority no matter what,” she said. “And that has been consistent for every project that I do for this town. That doesn’t change.”

With that in mind, McGonigle then asked if the current plan was the best that could be done for pedestrians at that intersection.

The specs for the Cross Street/Forest Street project. COURTESY PHOTO/TOWN OF WINCHESTER

Guidoboni called it a tough question, but given the parameters in which she had to work, it would be a yes.

“I mean, I don’t want to start talking about changing access and changing restrictions,” she said. “And I’m not really an advocate for streets that are for residents only, because then you get into enforcement and things like that. These are public streets, I think this is going to be a huge improvement for this location.”

Board member John Fallon made the motion to approve the design with the updates included and it passed unanimously.

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