Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Connecting to/from Route 9 in Shrewsbury, Worcester's Eastern Gateway

Here's the Shrewsbury post, my apologies for earlier post and delete....

The Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission released a report last week titled Route 9 Development and Traffic Analysis which looked at both current and future traffic on Route 9 in the towns of Shrewsbury, Northborough and Westborough. Not surprisingly, the report said many intersections were already over capacity and traffic would only get worse with more development. Improving intersections with vehicle detection and coordinating signals to minimize waiting time were recommended, but the focus for meaningfully improving capacity going forward was clearly on developing alternate means of getting around such as walking, bikes and public transportation. It's the public transportation piece that got me thinking about Worcester's AIRLINE BRT system, the AIRLINE East branch serving Shrewsbury and, more to the point, connections at it's eastern terminus at Fairlawn.

AIRLINE East (Red), Proposed Route 9 Bus (Orange) and Proposed Shrewsbury I-290 - Route 9 Highway Connector (Blue)
 Shrewsbury I-290 - Route 9 Highway Connector - Getting to the Worcester end of Route 9 in Shrewsbury is challenging. Options include accessing the area via Route 9 in Worcester, which is already overcrowded, or using narrow back roads such as Old Mill Rd. to get to Route 9 from I-290 near the Worcester/Shrewsbury line. I'm generally not a proponent of building new highways, but in this case there seems to be a unique opportunity to construct a 1.7 mile connector highway between I-290 and Route 9 along an existing power line right-of-way (ROW). The existing continuous ROW is approximately 200 feet wide and undeveloped with the exception of several power lines. The ROW crosses I-290 just east of the current Exit 22 near Shrewsbury High School and travels south to Route 9, crossing in the area of the Route 9/Maple Ave. intersection. One example of connector design that I think might work in this location is the Simarano Dr. connector off of Route I-495.

Simarano Dr. Connector (Exit 23C) off of I-495 in Marlborough (Image Rotated Approx. 45 degrees Counterclockwise to Match Orientation of I-290)
There appears to be sufficient existing undeveloped land for this style of interchange and the topography in the area is amazingly similar. The 4 lane Simarano Dr. connector width is approximately 70 feet, which would readily fit within the current 200 ft. ROW and should leave plenty of room for the existing and any future expansion of the existing power lines. As mentioned above, the exits for this connector would be close to existing Exit 22 off of I-290, and it may make sense to link these two exits with a frontage road in both directions so as to minimize the number of ramps to/from I-290. There is also the question of whether there should be a Main St. exit off of/entrance onto the connector. It seems to me that there should indeed be an exit/on ramp here as it should reduce reliance on local roads by through traffic.

 Intermodal Transit Station at Route 9/I-290 Connector/Maple Ave Intersections - I should be clear that the only way I would support developing the above highway connector was if it were a part of a bigger plan to support the development of multiple modes of transit both within Worcester and along the Route 9 corridor. It seems to me that the existing vacant industrial land and building (and presently listed for sale I believe) just east of the intersection of Route 9 and Maple Ave. would be a great location for an intermodal transit terminal similar in function (but certainly not scale) to the intermodal Alewife Station in Cambridge.

Potential Location for Intermodal Transit Station Just East of the Route 9 and Maple Ave. Intersection in Shrewsbury

A large parking area (surface initially, structured parking when the demand justifies it) would serve those arriving by car and provide users with three options - jump on the AIRLINE East to get to all points in Worcester, pickup the Route 9 bus to get to points along Route 9 in Shrewsbury, Northborough and Westborough (and points east), or travel to Shrewsbury center and other local points via the WRTA run Shrewsbury local service (present day WRTA Route 15). Some further thoughts on this intermodal station:
  1. This station could serve as a convenient jumping off point for getting to Worcester - get on the AIRLINE East bus and you can ride all the way to ORH within 1/2 hour while reading a book or catching up on those unread e-mails. 
  2. This station would provide Shrewsbury with a great opportunity to promote Transit Oriented Development (TOD) along Route 9 and could serve as a model for the growth of the balance of Route 9 in Worcester County going forward.
  3. UMASS Memorial Medical Center - University Campus continues to grow and it seems like I see satellite parking lots for their employees all around town - this intermodal station together with the highway connector would allow UMASS to consolidate it's employee satellite parking in one convenient location and share both parking and transportation facilities instead of covering 100% of these costs themselves. The UMASS Memorial Medical Center - University Campus is tight, the less land that needs to be dedicated towards storing vehicle, the more land that is available for labs and offices focused on saving lives.

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