December 30, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer
Plans for major improvements to the busy Route 3A corridor that stretches along Hingham's waterfront focus on improving the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists and include a shared-use path with a buffer along the waterfront and a permanent "road diet" from Martins Lane to the Hingham Rotary.
A public hearing about the project, now at the 25 percent design stage, is scheduled for Jan. 11 (see details below.)
This project includes safety and related improvements along Route 3A, Summer Street and Rockland Street from the intersection of Otis Street and Broad Cove Road south near the Hingham Lobster Pound and east to the intersection of George Washington Boulevard and Rockland Street, including the Hingham Rotary.
The planned modifications are also geared toward enhancing the recreational, educational, and commercial opportunities in this area.
"What's so remarkable about the project is the cooperation among the Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset public safety officials throughout the [decade-long] process," Hingham Rte. 3A Task Force Chair Judy Sneath told the Hingham Anchor. "The fire and police departments in all three towns have worked hard together to ensure that the project meets the primary goal, which is public safety."
Sneath further noted that the improvements will benefit residents of all three towns as well as the surrounding area who travel through -- or stop to enjoy -- the area.
"Anyone traversing this busy arterial will benefit from a dramatically-improved [experience] resulting from the reduction in speed, 21st-century traffic lights, and much better pedestrian access," task force member Deirdre Anderson said.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the project, is holding a 25 percent design public hearing via Zoom Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. Further details, including how to join the meeting, will be available on the Town of Hingham website closer to the time.
The purpose of the hearing is for MassDOT and the Town of Hingham to provide the public with the opportunity to become fully acquainted with the proposed project. "All views and comments submitted in response to the hearing will be reviewed and considered to the maximum extent possible," according to the mass.gov post about the hearing.
Opportunity for residents to weigh in
"We’d like to be sure residents [of all three towns] know about the project goals and how they can weigh in," Sneath said. "We'd like as many people who are interested in this project to participate as possible and to share what they would like to see as well as any concerns."
She noted that the numerous public meetings over the years leading up to this hearing have been shaped by public input.
Pressley Associates' landscaping plan will also be shared, which includes about 50 trees providing shade throughout the corridor when the temperatures rise; grassy areas where there is now concrete; and shrubbery and other plantings that are not only environmentally friendly but also make the area more aesthetically pleasing.
"The landscaping will be closely coordinated with the work that has already been done at the Bathing Beach and will complement the new brick walkway and dune plantings," Sneath said. "This project provides a regional benefit, because people come from all over [the South Shore and beyond] to enjoy the waterfront -- a gem that is a real public asset."
As part of this project, the Rotary "will be condensed into a safer, modern roundabout, instead of the free-for-all that exists now," Anderson said. "The end result will be a properly laid-out roadway, where people will be able to cross the street safely."
For example, the crossing area by Redeye Roasters from the waterfront to the downtown area "will have a lot more breathing room, with a bollard to separate pedestrians, people pushing strollers, walkers, and joggers from the roadway," according to Anderson.
The overall plan also includes new sidewalks; updated traffic signals with flashing beacons indicating that someone is trying to cross the street; fog lines; and a 10-foot shared-use path with a buffer along the waterfront -- all part of the effort to make the harborfront safer and more user-friendly for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
Hingham's share of the project will be about $819,000 for engineering and construction design costs. MassDOT estimates the actual construction cost at $15.3 million, which will be paid for with state and federal funds.
The project is currently on the state's 2025 Transportation Improvement Program schedule, "though our engineers are confident that the design documents will be shovel-ready by the 2024 TIP, should the opportunity arise," Sneath said.
Major improvements planned
The project also includes improved signage, lane and yield markings, curbing, traffic islands, design changes at the Water Street/North Street/Route 3A intersection (including dedicated turn lanes), traffic-calming measures, and much-improved pedestrian and bicyclist access along the corridor.
A temporary pilot program in 2018 was a cooperative effort among Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset town officials due to speeding issues and the high number of accidents that posed serious safety concerns in that area.
Under this "road diet" one traffic lane was eliminated in both directions from the Rotary along Summer Street to Rockland Street at George Washington Boulevard and was considered successful by town officials in moderating traffic flow.
This "road diet" is included in the current design, except that the change will include only that portion of the roadway from Martins Lane to the Rotary, which is less than half a mile.
Sneath explained that the results of this pilot program showed that the impacts of such a change to surrounding areas related to potential cut-through traffic were felt to be negligible and that there would be less than a one-minute delay for motorists traveling through the reduced-lane area.
"We will not be re-hearing comments about the road diet during this meeting," she said. "It's a firm part of the project and is happening to improve public safety" along this dangerous stretch.
Anderson noted that once a project such as this one reaches the 25 percent design stage, the process "tends to move along quickly. The engineers will likely be working on plans that are further developed."
Project inquiries, written statements, and other exhibits regarding the proposed undertaking may be submitted to Carrie E. Lavallee, P.E., Acting Chief Engineer, via e-mail to MassDOTProjectManagement@dot.state.ma.us or via US Mail to Suite 6340, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116, Attention: Project Management, Project File No. 605168.
Statements and exhibits intended for inclusion in the public hearing transcript must be emailed or postmarked no later than 10 business days after the hearing is posted to the MassDOT website listed below.
Representatives of the engineering firm involved with the project, DCI, and members of the task force will participate in the MassDOT-hosted meeting.
"The public will have an opportunity to comment and ask questions during the final part of the meeting," Sneath said.
Anderson noted that the first 15-minutes will involve a MassDOT presentation before hearing from the design engineer for the project, landscaping information, and other well-worth-waiting-for details.
A recording of the meeting will be posted on the above website for those who are unable to participate on Jan. 11.
Sneath pointed out the remarkable value this project has for the town, not only with the major public safety improvements, but also due to the fact that state and federal funds are paying for most of the project. "The [$819,000] is such a good investment of town funds," she said.
While there will be inconveniences during the two-to-three-year construction period, Anderson called the major improvement project "this generation's legacy in making the area a safer place for anyone traveling this roadway. It will be a transformative experience from how people currently navigate this area."