Argilla Road at Crane Beach flooded by high tidesNews

Ipswich Conservation Commission declines to consider safety concerns for Jeffreys Neck Road

At a public meeting of the Ipswich Conservation Commission on March 4, 2020, the Commission declined to consider requests by several Ipswich residents that they not approve a proposal for raising a 1200 ft. section of Jeffreys Neck Road that does not include adequate accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists. The Commission voted to approve the Notice of Intent (NOI) for Jeffreys Neck Road reconstruction, but residents at the meeting were told that safety considerations were outside of the Commission’s purview. Ipswich Select Board member Kerry Mackin suggested that the Select Board could hold a public session in the future.

Section of Jeffreys Neck Road to be raised

Section of Jeffreys Neck Road to be raised

Kevin McHugh of Coneco Engineers spoke for the NOI for the project, but stated that after receiving several complaints about the pedestrian and cyclists safety issue, a 10′ travel lane with 3′ shoulders is being discussed.

In June, 2018 the Town of Ipswich adopted a Complete Streets policy. The intent of the Ipswich Select Board, as adopted, is to consistently design and construct projects to accommodate all anticipated users.

Bicycle rides in Ipswich MA
Despite narrow widths and minimal shoulders, Jeffreys Neck and Argilla Roads are two of the most popular cycling routes in Ipswich

A public forum on the morning of February 5, 2020 brought out concerns among several attendees about preliminary concepts for raising sections of Argilla Rd. 1.5 ft. and Jeffreys Neck Road by 2 ft. to reduce the occurrence of flooding and roadway closures during major storms. Both roads have become vulnerable to increased high tide flooding due to the effects of sea level rise, which is expected to become considerably higher in the coming decades due to global warming.

argilla-resilient-map

Argilla Road Crane Estate Resiliency Project, Ipswich MA

Ironically, neither plan includes adequate accommodation for pedestrians or cyclists, although Argilla and Jeffreys Neck Roads are among the most popular cycling and walking destinations. Mass DOT recommends the following widths for bicycling lanes:

“The bike lane zone should also be wide enough to accommodate the volume of
users. For one-way separated bike lanes with low volumes of bicyclists (less than
150 per peak hour), the recommended width of the bike lane zone is 6.5 ft. This is the width needed to enable passing movements between bicyclists. In constrained conditions where the recommended width cannot be achieved, the bike lane zone can be a minimum of 5 ft. wide.”

The Ipswich Community Development Plan, adopted at Town Meeting supports cycling and walking, and recommends the development of additional trails and sidewalks. In 2019, the town of Ipswich joined 240 other communities around the state by taking on the designation of Green Community.

Argilla Road Conceptual Plan

argilla-rd-typical-section-profile

2020 conceptual plan to raise Argilla Road in Ipswich

The plan for Argilla Road shows a 11′ automotive travel land and a 2′ paved shoulder.

ipswich_crane_trail_image

The proposed Ipswich to Crane Beach Trail

The proposed Ipswich to Crane Beach Trail was a project develop a cycling and pedestrian trail starting from the Ipswich Depot and continuing alongside Argilla Rd. to Crane Beach. When the project was conceived in 1996, approximately 70 percent of Argilla Road homeowners endorsed the concept, along with the Ipswich Board of Selectmen, the Essex County Trail Association, the Boston Bay Circuit Alliance, Ipswich Bay Circuit, Essex County Greenbelt, the National Park Service, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Trustees of Reservations.

During the decade after the trail was first conceived, a committee dedicated to making this idea a reality obtained grants to produce a master plan, right-of-way survey, detailed base map, and updated wetlands mapping. At a 2011 public meeting at the Ipswich Town Hall, a group of Argilla Road homeowners raised objections, citing “environmental concerns” while another stated that she “would not want to see more cyclists on the road since I already see too many cars.” Another resident expressed concerns that the trail would “go through people’s living rooms.”

Although the proposal has been sidelined for several years, any reconstruction of Argilla Road should be built to accommodate the trail in the future.

argilla-watercolor-dow

Watercolor of Argilla Road by Arthur Wesley Dow

Argilla Farm Ipswich Arthur Wesley Dow
Argilla Road was a single dirt lane until the advent of the automotive age. This photo taken closer to town around 1900 shows Argilla Farm on the right in the distance. Photo by Arthur Wesley Dow, from cyanotype image.

Jeffreys Neck Road

jeffreys-neck-typical-proposal

This illustration provided at the 2020 public poster session for reconstruction of Jeffreys Neck Road shows guardrails and no shoulder.

At a public meeting of the Ipswich Conservation Commission on March 4, 2020, the Commission declined to consider requests by Ipswich residents that they not approve a proposal for Jeffreys Neck Road that does not include adequate accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists. Current plans show a 11.5′ travel lane with guardrails. Little or no shoulder is provided in the illustration above.

jeffreys-neck-road-elevations

Image from Town of Ipswich Jeffreys Neck Flood Assessment (2013) showing 11 1/2′ travel lane and 18″ paved shoulder with guardrail. The document also gives an illustration for a 11′ travel lane and 4′ paved shoulder. It provides a description of Jeffreys Neck Road currently as having 11 to 11 1/2′ paved travel lanes with little to no shoulder for cyclists or pedestrians. This is the most recent information available on the Town of Ipswich website. No information about the project is available at the Ipswich Public Workspage.

The US DOT recommends a travel lane width of 9′ to 12′ for rural roadways, as shown in the graph below. For additional information or to register your opinion about the projects, contact Frank Ventimiglia, Ipswich Public Works, at 978-356-6612 or by email at frankv@ipswichma.gov.

Roadway widths

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highways Administration design values for through travel lanes, auxiliary lanes, ramps, and turning roadways. Lane width does not include shoulders, curbs, and on-street parking areas.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highways Administration design values for through travel lanes, auxiliary lanes, ramps, and turning roadways. Lane width does not include shoulders, curbs, and on-street parking areas.

Flooding on Jeffreys Neck Road, Feb 6, 2016 high tide. Photo by Ipswich Emergency Management, courtesy of TheLocal.Ne.IS

Flooding on Jeffreys Neck Road, Feb 6, 2016 high tide. Photo by Ipswich Emergency Management, courtesy of TheLocal.ne.ws.

TOWN OF IPSWICH TRANSPORTATION POLICY 

The Ipswich Community Development Plan, adopted at Town Meeting in 2003 includes the following:

Support non-automotive transportation modes including cycling and walking. As part of this policy, the Community Development Plan recommends the development of additional trails and sidewalks as well as efforts to support bicycling.

Provide viable non-automobile modes of transportation for Ipswich residents and workers.
a) Provide residents and visitors with transportation alternatives by providing safe and accessible sidewalks, crosswalks, and other pedestrian amenities.
b) Foster a safe street environment for pedestrians and cyclists.
c) Encourage recreational and commuter bicycling in Ipswich by providing bicycle facilities on existing roads wherever practical.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Access
While the capacity of the street system and public transit modes are important, so too are the needs of bicyclists, joggers and pedestrians. As the public’s interest in health and physical fitness grows, the needs of this growing segment of the population should also be considered. In addition, biking and walking are viable modes of commuting for many Ipswich residents, either alone or in combination with the commuter rail.

Further Reading:

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