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Letter from John Curry,
Executive Vice President of MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology John R. Curry 77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Executive Vice President  Building 3, Room 221 Phone 617.253.1882
Fax 617.252.1387
Email jrcurry@mit.edu

July 10, 2002
[postmarked July 22, 2002]

Mr. John S. Allen
7 University Park
Waltham, MA 02453-1523

Dear Mr. Allen:

We thank you for the great interest you have shown in the Vassar Street project and for your research. I have been briefed on your ideas and concerns and am pleased to respond to your letters.

We have retained the services of a highly qualified team of professional highway traffic engineers, civil and utilities engineers, bicycle facility planners and landscape architects on this project and I am convinced that the model that has been put forward for Vassar Street is appropriate for its setting. Similar designs have been implemented with great success throughout Europe for many years, and this design meets both the European standards and those of the American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Most of our students live on the West Campus and by placing this facility on Vassar Street, we will be providing an important amenity for them.

We recognize that no design will entirely eliminate the potential for conflicts between cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians. On a busy urban street multiple users will always be competing for limited real estate. We have, however, made every effort to design a facility that will limit these conflicts. For instance, to avoid potential conflicts with vehicles turning right and to give motorists a better line of sight, we have redesigned the intersections to move cyclists back into the street where motorists will expect them. At driveways, steep curb ramps will slow vehicles down, allowing the pedestrians and cyclists to move through at curb level without dips and breaks in pavement. This approach makes it very clear that cyclists and pedestrians have the right of way. Throughout the Vassar Street corridor this message is reinforced with signage, lighting, and pavement markings. Definition of uses is further reinforced with a sharp contrast in color and texture between the sidewalk and cycle track. Finally, the cycle track, will be wide enough (7 feet) to allow one cyclist to pass another without having to traverse onto the sidewalk.

In order to address concerns about maintenance, MIT has committed, through an agreement with the City of Cambridge, to keeping the cycle track free of ice and snow. MIT is also committed to educating its pedestrians and cyclists in the proper use of the paths. We will conduct follow-up evaluations to monitor usage of the facility and to analyze accident data.

The Vassar Street project has been in the works for a number of years and there has been considerable public input at every step. MIT, in working with the public, City staff and its Committees, has made significant changes to roadway alignment, intersection design, materials, and signage in response to the input received during this public process. The project has clearly benefited from these refinements.

We will be proceeding with construction of Vassar Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Main Street within the next three weeks. There is some urgency to getting a substantial piece of the project completed within this calendar year in order to get ahead of three major State and City roadway projects planned for the immediate campus environs. We intend to hold off on construction of West Vassar for at least two years to allow these projects to proceed unencumbered by construction on Vassar Street. This break will also give us an opportunity to gauge the success of the design in the East and allow time for continued input and refinement.

I am very enthusiastic about the Vassar Streetscape project and firmly believe that it will not only add substantially to the quality of life on campus but will also provide an important amenity for the community as a whole.

Sincerely yours,

John R. Curry

JRC / cac

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