Ayer Road Project Q & A

This page is set up to answer specific public questions related to the Ayer Road Reconstruction Project. We will continue to add to the Q&A throughout the project timeline. If you have a question that you would like answered on this page, please submit your question (or comment) to [email protected] and if not a repeat, we will post it. Questions fielded during the Monday, June 22nd Zoom Webinar have also been added below. If there is no answer from a specific question listed, that means that it was answered verbally at the meeting and you can listen to the recording at the link below.

**Link to Webinar Recording --> Here

**Last Update to List of Questions/Answers:  JULY 8, 2020

New Questions/Comments/Answers (Post Meeting)

July 7, 2020

Q: I listened in to the June 22 meeting and have since talked with a number of people about the proposal and it seems to me that there is a lot of concern about the speed and volume of existing truck and car traffic.  This proposal/project does not seem to address that problem AT ALL.  In fact, widening and straightening the roadway would actually lead to an increase in both volume and speed.  It has been stated that this road needs to “serve as a major regional arterial road and truck route.”  Who wants that?  From my discussions, this is not what Harvard residents want.  When will these legitimate concerns be addressed? In the past, we have been told that commercial traffic from Devens would be / should be routed directly out to Route 2, through the Jackson gate.  Why is this not being enforced? It seems dangerous to encourage faster vehicular traffic through an area where you also hope to promote more pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Can’t the Town work to facilitate a project that the residents want, rather than one driven by the state DOT? Thank you, Robin Carlaw

June 27, 2020

Q: I have attached a screenshot of an idea for the location of the shared use pathway for Ayer Road project, expanding on my comment made during the Zoom Meeting last week.  Please excuse the rudimentary markings. 
Starting on the EAST side of Ayer Road, near Rt 2, passing Dunkin Donuts
CROSSING AYER RD Near Gebo Lane to the WEST side of Ayer Rd.
Looping behind the post office, onto the closed Lancaster County Road segment
Staying Along the WEST side of Ayer Rd through the majority of the commercial district
CROSSING AYER RD again, somewhere near the Apple works to the East side
Staying on Ayer Rd EAST side past Myrick Lane to the town line.

A: In general it is preferable to provide a continuous shared use path to reduce the number of roadway crossing that someone would need to negotiate if they wanted to travel the length of the path for recreational purposes.  Ayer Road needs to be shifted in order to accommodate the 10’ wide shared use path within the right of way,  Swapping the shared use path from one side of Ayer Road to the other would result in increased property takings due to the 50’ right of way width.
Q: This proposal would do several things:

  1. Being on the Dunkin Donuts side - where a lot of foot traffic/bike traffic would rather be

A:  See above.

2. Crossing near Gebo provides  appropriate distance from the highway so that cars won't get backed up onto ramp when they have to stop for the crossing.  Being on  the appropriate side of the road for  Accessibility to the post office and Waite Fields/ Track, etc

A: A crosswalk would still be  required at each end of the bike path (Dunkin Donuts and Ayer town line) to allow bicyclists to return to the correct side of the roadway where the shared use path terminates.  TEC will review the possibility of additional crosswalk locations along Ayer Road. Crosswalk locations must meet state and federal guidelines for sight distance and safety.

3. Crossing back to East side somewhere Near Appleworks (my markings on the map are probably inaccurate here- you're obviously going to want to place the cross walk further away from the curve in the road) would solve several issues  -  more open space on east side of road in that region would address the concern that Mrs Doe brought up about frontage of her neighbors in that section of the road as well as the Myrick Road access to the path.

A:  See above.

4. By having the path cross Ayer Road twice may also address the speed concerns that some residences expressed.  Advanced markings/ flashing lights warning of upcoming path crossing would (hopefully) slow down traffic along the road.

A: Unfortunately crosswalks are not effective traffic calming measures and as noted above can only be installed in locations where they meet state and federal guidelines for sight distance and safety.  We will review the feasibility of adding additional crosswalks along the corridor in locations suggested if safe to do so.

5. I would be interested in the transportation engineer's thoughts on this proposal - whether crossing the road x 2 for this path would be considered a safety hazard in their eyes...Marisa Steele

A: Given the volume of traffic, volume of trucks, speed limit, and character of the roadway as well as the physical constraints noted above we would recommend maintaining the shared use path on one side of the road and installing crosswalks after an engineering study determines it is safe to do so.

Original Questions/Comments/Answers (Pre-Meeting and Meeting)

Q1. Shared Use Path: what is this? Is this planned as a divided path where cyclists and walkers are on separate tracks so to speak? From the Gebo Lane drawing, it looks like this path is to run parallel to the roadway, just like a traditional side walk?

A1: Yes that is exactly right, it is a facility with exclusive right-of-way and no interaction with motor vehicles and is open to pedestrian, bicyclists, skaters, wheel chair users, strollers, and more.  The Ayer Road Right-of-Way is only 50' wide in total so the path will be fairly close to the roadway with a vegetated seperation. I'd prefer a more meandering path a little more removed from the roadway but without huge costs in acquiring more adjacent land, the current designs are the only ones feasible.

Q2: Where does this path begin and where does it terminate? What does this path actually link? Will it get people from Harvard to places they want to go?

A2: It begins at the Ayer line and terminates near the Dunkin Donuts driveway. It links all land uses along the corridor including the new Craftsman Village development, Apple Works. the shopping center, office buildings, conservation lands, Harvard Green, and Foxglove Apts. As development may occur throughout the corridor, the path will be there for them as well.  The expectation is also that it will link to the Ayer sidewalk and path system, including the proposed Landline trail system, the Devens system that extends up Barnam Road and down throughout Jackson Road, and other trails in the region. Project extents limited

Q3: When you write about a ~ 10’ SUP5’ buffer or 8’SUP3’ ~ I do not understand what this means? Please explain.

A3: In the design specifications for the path, this refers to a ten foot wide shared use path with a 5 foot buffer or an 8 foot wide shared use path with a 3 foot buffer. The path will generally be 10' wide but due to some areas of ROW width constraint, it will need to be narrowed to 8' in width.

Q4: What are the milestones that move this project along? Who decided on the milestones? Are they linked to the town calendar or to dates of significance in town, where does one find this information?

A4: The milestones are set by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation based on design stages. We are currently in the 10% design stage or very early. There are also a 25%, 75%, and 100% design stages. This is all based on the Transportation Improvement Program guidelines set by the Federal transportation legislation, MassDOT, and the local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) which in our case is the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC). Some of the information about TIP projects is found on the project website [ https://www.harvard.ma.us/planning-board/pages/ayer-road-tip-project-jun... ]HERE and you can also go to MassDOT or FHA websites for more information as well.

Q5: Why was alternative 3 developed in March during the shut down and without community outreach?

A5: All three alternatives have been developed prior to formal public comment at this stage. The 10% design stage does not typically offer the opportunity for public comment. That generally happens at the 25% design stage. However, the Town felt that for this project that it wanted to get public comment earlier in the process, thus this meeting.  Also, much of the design and the project itself was based on goals in the 2016 Master Plan, input from the Planning Board at public meetings, review of wetlands and sensitive environmental areas in the corridor, right-of-way constraints, and preliminary discussions with MassDOT. The project at its most basic level is necessary due to current road conditions and is in critical need of reconstruction in order to continue to serve as a major regional arterial road and truck route. Federal requirements for roadways with at least 10,000 average daily traffic necessitate the inclusion of a shared use path, so this is one reason why the path has been included in the design.

Q6: What has been done in terms of outreach to residents who live on Ayer Road and will be affected by these changes?

A6: This meeting has been in the Press, posted on NextDoor, posted on the Town web site, there is an electronic message board on Ayer Road notifying people of the meeting, emails have been distributed to business and other lists, and it was also announced at Town Meeting and Select Board meetings.

Q7: Perhaps it is already in the presentation, but could you give the present-day road widths in key spots, ie, Gebo Lane, Lancaster County Rd, Poor farm Road?     

A7: The current roadway width varies from approximately 26' to 28'.

Q8: Would the federal and/or state money cover 100% of the cost of the project or is there a town match?   

A8: The State/Federal funding will cover the cost of construction, police details, any necessary utility relocations, and a resident engineer during construction. The Town is only responsible for design and any costs associated with acquisition of any temporary or permanent easements made necessary by the improvements.

Q9: I assume the Bowers Brook bridge will be rebuilt.  Can you prioritize having dry bank space under the bridge for wildlife passage?  There is a statewide effort to facilitate fish and wildlife movement through our current obstructed culverts.

A9: The bridge over Bowers Brook is owned and maintained by MassDOT and is not currently planned to be rebuilt as part of the project.

Q10: Is the truck volume increasing faster than car traffic?

A10: We have not performed an analysis of historic truck volume data to determine the rate of increase, if any.

Q11: Will there still be access to the fire pond at the very end of Lancaster County Road?

A11: Yes, access will be maintained.

Q12: Regarding DOT preferred option.  Northbound Cars waiting to turn left onto Gebo Lane will stack on 110/111, blocking my office building's parking lot (209 Ayer).  Has that been studied?

A12: Yes. The condition is not dissimilar to the existing condition, although the shoulder will be slightly wider there.

Q13: Has an environmental assessment been done on the drainage system to assess what type of system would provide the most environmentally sustainable solution?

A13: Not at this stage of design. However, permitting through the Conservation Commission will be required and opportunities for improving the quality and managing the quantity of runoff will be explored as the design is developed.

Q14: Do narrower roads result in slower traffic speeds?

A14: Yes, as a general trend, narrower lanes result in slower speeds.

Q15: It appears the road will be widened from the rendering. Is that correct?

A15: The roadway shoulders will be widened slightly in some areas to provide a consistent roadway width throughout the entire corridor.

Q16: Would there be crosswalk for Poor Farm and South Shaker Road to access walkway?

A16: Additional crosswalk locations to access conservation parcels, residential neighborhoods, etc. will be evaluated as the design progresses.

Q17: There is a dip in the road by the Post Office will that be corrected.

A17: Yes, the roadway resurfacing should address that issue.

Q18: So current traffic speeds dictate the design?  In other words, the design cannot be changed to calm traffic and lower the speed limits?

Q19: In 2008 Harvard Park and Rec applied for and received funding for a Recreation Path that goes from Depot Rd, under Route 2 and connecting to Lancaster county Rd.  Could any funds be acquired from this funding source to improve the Lancaster County Rd. and connect these recreational pathways?

Q20: Does the design of the change to Gebo lane provide ample clearance for emergency vehicles?

A20: Yes, the realigned intersection will accommodate emergency vehicles.

Q21: …what is the ""consistent roadway width"?"

A21: 30 feet (11' lanes plus 4' shoulders).

Q22: Provision of space for trees?  You called it a shaded path.  What produces the shade?

A22: It is referred to as a ""shared-use"" path. Additional street trees may be incorporated into the design as it is developed further.

Q23: Concerns regarding Myrick Lane. Address traffic and pedestrian safety for access onto Ayer Rd, for pedestrians and potentially families who see the new shared use path as an attractive activity to access.

Q24: At the Town Meeting Saturday, two days ago, someone raised the importance of considering at this stage of planning, a sewage corridor and where it or they might cross Ayer Road.  Has this been considered?

Q25: Has anyone polled the land owners to see if they would contribute land to better support trees?

Q26: Regarding the fire pond, up Lancaster County Road are 3 large commercial buildings which result in the construction of the fire pond,  If the Bridge is closed then it will be impossible to lay a 4"" hose line to a fire with open engine or the abandonment of the fire pond.  This should not happen, not to mention that it may affect property owner’s insurance.

A26: Provisions can be made for the bridge to remain open for emergency vehicles.

Q27: Would slowing north-bound traffic run the risk of causing traffic on the Route 2 off ramp to back up onto Route 2 itself — a hazard of a different sort?

A27: The project will not change the flow of northbound traffic to a point where it would impact the Route 2 off-ramp.

Q28: Why cross walks and ends rather than third points for better distribution?

Q29: So the path will not link to the Town Center? 

A29: That is beyond the scope of this project, but an extension could be considered in the future, subject to identification of an additional funding source(s).

Q30: How many easements are needed to facilitate building the pedestrian/bike path?

A30: It is somewhat early in the design to know exactly. The preferred alternative requires the least number of permanent easements. Most parcels along the corridor could have temporary minor grading impacts that may require a temporary easement.

Q31: Is TEC the same design firm that designed the General Store parking lot and traffic re-configuration?

A31: Yes.

Q32: It is disappointing to hear that the roadway will be widened (in places) since widening increases traffic speeds.

Q33: I thought bridge was closing due to its condition. So, it is alright to drive a fire engine over the bridge. 

Q34: Can there be a turn lane at Gebo Lane for north bound traffic?

A34: The volume of turning traffic likely does not warrant a turn lane, but it could be considered for safety reasons. However, given the constrained right-of-way width, this would require a permanent easement(s) and potentially result in wetland impacts.

Q35: I was sitting at the General Store a week ago and I saw a Harvard Fire Truck seemingly unable to navigate that turn, instead make a right turn into the General Store parking lot, drive in the wrong direction in the parking lot towards the Congregation Church, before returning to Still River Road. I might be mistaken, but seemed like the design didn’t accommodate our town fire trucks??

A35: That is the emergency access route that was discussed with the Fire Dept during design of the project.

Q36: Why are you assuming a widened road at all.  I understand the right of way response to a prior question.  But wouldn’t keeping the road narrower lead to reduced speeds on the road.  Studies have shown this to be true.

Q37: My question: Is the intersection in front of the General Store able to accommodate our larger fire trucks? If not, WHY NOT?

A37: Yes, it is.

Q38: Has any thought been given to adding turning lanes at the post office, the foxglove entrance, the banking center, Old Mill Road and Appleworks?

Q39: Regarding the Lancaster County Road bridge.  An earlier answer stated that the bridge could be used by fire trucks in emergencies.  Is that correct?

A39: We will have discussions with the Fire Dept as the design progresses to ensure that their needs with respect to fire pond access are met.

Q40: ...and how does that (proposed width) compare to the average current road width (with shoulders)?

A40: Current roadway is 26'-28' wide.

Q41: I wonder then why a fire truck driving south on Ayer Road, coming down the hill from Town Hall would turn into the General Store parking lot instead of making the turn in the intersection? This was a very dangerous move by the firetruck. It was scary to see.      

Q42: Returning to Jim Lee's question about a turn lane for Gebo [Lane] for northbound traffic: this intersection will become even busier and it's already dangerous to turn out of our parking lot (206 Ayer).  Stacking traffic in 110/111 here will make it far worse.

Q43: Why is the Shared Use Path located on the east side of Gebo Lane?  Wouldn’t it be safer to have pathway users NOT have cross Gebo at the intersection of Ayer Rd.  Wouldn’t it be better on the west side?

Q44: It would be nice if the residents that live in the developments east of Ayer Road, would be able to cross Ayer Road without dodging traffic.

Q45: There is a lot of bike traffic along S Shaker and Poor Farm roads, so those would make great crossing locations.

Q46: Is there any way to incorporate the Shared Use Path on the main roadbed?  Perhaps with some kind of physical structure for separation (as being used in some cities for bike lanes)?  It seems like it will be a far simpler and cheaper project without the need to run the SHARED USE PATH through numerous front yards, parking lots, driveways, etc.  If that resulted in narrower travel lanes, that might help with the ""traffic calming"" that others are asking about.

Q47: Those of us who wait to turn left onto Ayer Road find the high rate of speed and incessant traffic makes it a real challenge to safely turn onto Ayer Road.

Q48: What will determine which side of Ayer Road the multiuse path is on?

A48: The existing bridge over Bowers Brook represents a significant constraint. Keeping the path on the west side allows us to utilize Gebo Ln/Lancaster County Rd without having to introduce additional crossings of Ayer Rd.

Q49: As someone rear-ended trying to turn left onto Gebo Lane, a turn lane seems essential given the increase in traffic.

A49: As discussed previously, we will further evaluate the possibility of a left turn lane.

Q50: Won't increasing the shoulder allow for faster speed, even if lane width stays the same?

Q51: Could you recap any areas where Ayer Road would be straightened to smooth any curves, I heard it mentioned as a reason, but don't recall any points on Ayer Road that this was proposed.  I.e. Doe's corner and across from Foxglove (327 & 253 Ayer Road respectively.

Q52: Thanks for any traffic calming.  I recently tried to cross Ayer Road near the Post Office, and it was life-threatening. :)

Q53…So the widening is really making the shoulders consistent?  The actual driving width will not change..?

Q54: If you want to walk to the Post Office, why not have a stoplight installed there?

A54: Our traffic analysis shows that a traffic signal is not warranted there.

Q55: Route 2A has many stoplights, why can’t Ayer Road have some stoplights to slow and calm traffic? And enable safe pedestrian crossings?

A55: Traffic signals must meet certain warrants established by FHWA to be installed, and our traffic analysis shows that the intersections within the project limits do not meet those warrants.

Q56: In response to George’s question about putting bike lanes alongside the road.  Please don’t consider putting along the road it is not safer.

A56: Thank you for your comment.

Q57: Would you consider adding a landscape architect to the design team?  I can imagine a beautiful line of trees shading the pedestrian way.  The planning would not take funds from the project but would be part of the development of the Ayer Rd corridor.

Q58: I live off of Littleton Road, when it was resurfaced and a shoulder added a few years ago, I saw traffic speeds increase greatly!!

Q59: Does this grant pay for the Shared Use Path crossing of each business driveway?

A59: While it's not a grant program per se, the State/Federal funds will cover the entire Shared Use Path construction, including all driveway and side street crossings.     

Q60: Harvard wouldn't take care of the landscaping :)

Q61: The road width on Littleton Road stayed about the same when it was resurfaced, and yet traffic speeds increased greatly after the road work was done.

Q62: Why not speed bumps? Stoplights on Ayer Road slow traffic Right?

Q63: We have a large police force. Having a police officer monitoring the traffic caused the traffic to slow down.

Q64: Cars turning left out of Dunkin Donuts parking lot have a really tough site line from cars coming off and over Rte 2.

Q65: So, maybe a turn lane that runs from the south end of this project to Gebo Lane?  That way we can cross one Ayer Road lane at a time.

Q66: Yes, this area around Dunkin shoudl be addressed at this time.

Q67: Speaking of the stop sign when you get off of Route 2, will that remain a stop sign, or be changed to a yield sign? If not, could someone tell me why it needs to be a stop sign instead of a yield sign, like most off ramps? I really don’t understand why one would need to come to a complete stop at that area.

Q68: Is that the safest solution at Dunkin Donuts to have 3 or 4 lanes of traffic to cross via a cross walk?

Q69: It was a yield until they repaired the bridge, then they made it a stop sign when it went down to one lane.  They never reverted the stop back to a yield, and the police love enforcing that unintuitive stop at the end of the offramp.

Q70: The snowmobiles cross Ayer Road at the Blomfelt land near Sorrento’s as well.  

Q71: It might make sense to have the SHARED USE PATH on the east side of the road at Dunkin Donuts and keep it on the east side then have a cross walk closer to the post office/ bridge/ closed off Lancaster County Rd.

Q72: This has been a very useful meeting.  Thank you.  I appreciate the early opportunity to hear the teams’ thoughts.

Q73: Is there a way to cantilever the path over the Ayer Road Bowers Brook bridge rather than detour the path over the Gebo? 

Q74: Is there any opportunity to incorporate shared use driveways to reduce the number of curb cuts and turning traffic?

A74: This is certainly a Bylaw amendment that the Planning Board could consider because it makes great sense. So does rear consolidated parking areas. The Town’s engineer TEC can take a look at locations where this may be feasible. This would, however, require cross-access agreements and some property/business owners may object to having their access changed. Ideally it would apply to new developments and offer incentives for existing developments.

Q75: Will this road redesign eliminate or reduce the semi-trucks that park on either side of the road so drivers/passengers can scamper to Dunkin Donuts? Seems like a hazard there.

A75: Extending the limits of proposed vertical granite curb could be considered to address this issue, though the current 10% design had not contemplated this. We can also consider installing “No Parking” signs along the roadway to prohibit parking in this area.

Q76: On which side of the road will the utility poles be located? How many wire crossings will result? Don't frequent wire crossings cause line drop in cell and GPS signals? Not to mention unsightly. Any consideration for burying the wires during construction?

A76: Relocating/consolidating utility poles to one side is a suggestion to potentially reduce the number of poles and enhance views along the corridor. The feasibility of this, and which side is preferred, will be discussed with the utility companies during the 25% design stage. The utility companies would not allow a design that would compromise their service. The cost for engineering and construction to relocate the overhead utilities to underground is likely beyond the scope of this project. Underground relocation costs can reach $3 to $4 million per road mile, and the State/Federal funds anticipated to be programmed through the State Transportation Improvement Program would not cover this cost.

Q77: Will all crosswalks have flash warning lights when in use or just those at either end? How will the crosswalks be maintained? Is that a DPW budget item? They are of no use if the lights don't work or the road paint is worn away or covered with a winter salt glaze that makes them invisible.

A77: These will be evaluated on a location-by-location basis; however, due to the speed of the roadway and the percentage of trucks, the crosswalks would likely be equipped with some type of traffic control or warning device. The device would only flash when activated by a pedestrian or bicyclist who wishes to cross the road. The crosswalks and flashers would be maintained by the Town of Harvard, since Ayer Road is under local jurisdiction north of the Route 2 interchange. Lights will be replaced by the DPW and the crosswalks maintained by the DPW. Snow will be cleared from the roadway by DPW as they typically do.

Q78: How will the shared use path be maintained? Will it be DPW's responsibility and budget? How will the snow be cleared, if at all? Salted/Sanded?

A78: The shared use path will be maintained by the Town of Harvard, since Ayer Road is under local jurisdiction north of the Route 2 interchange. The plan is to have the DPW plow the shared use path just as they will be maintaining the new sidewalks in the town center. Sanding and salting will be determined on an as-needed basis.

Q79: Who will be responsible for maintaining any added landscaping and mowing needed? DPW? DPW budget?

A79: Landscaping within the town right of way would be maintained by the DPW; however, there is a possibility that the town could reach an agreement with property owners to share the maintenance responsibility, if additional landscaping were considered. Mowing the grass buffer is hopefully going to done by the local homeowners but the DPW will mow as necessary but it will not be done on a weekly basis.

Q80: I am concerned about the area around Dunkin Donuts and hope some serious time will be spent analyzing use patterns and possible safety measures. I have been almost T-boned twice travelling south by vehicles turning left (south) out of that shared driveway. And I have nearly been rear ended turning into that driveway northbound because the road narrows at that point and drivers aren't attentive to slowing/turning traffic. 

A80: There were many concerns about this location brought up during the recent public meeting. The engineer (TEC) will review this area and provide recommendations for any feasible safety measures that could be implemented.

Q81: I strongly urge a crosswalk at South Shaker Road, not only for bike traffic but also for pedestrian use. With the Post Office located so close in that location, it is a safety factor. Also, there is a big network of conservation trails in the South Shaker/Shaker Road area that will feed into that crossing.

A81: The engineer (TEC) will review the possibility of additional crosswalk locations along Ayer Road. Crosswalk locations must meet state and federal guidelines for sight distance and safety.

Q82: I also support a crossing at the trail end at the Bromfelt easement (near Sorento's) to connect to the Shaker/Holy Hill conservation trails from that remote side of the trail network.

A82: The engineer (TEC) will review the possibility of additional crosswalk locations along Ayer Road. Crosswalk locations must meet state and federal guidelines for sight distance and safety.