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Local editorial

Too far, too wide on East Jackson

The neighbors are willing to compromise; the city should, too

The more we review the city of Medford's plans for widening East Jackson Street, the more we're inclined to say this project goes too far, or at least too wide. The latest revelation about the large number of large trees that would come down makes it even more imperative that the city scale back its plans.

If you drive east on Jackson Street as it approaches Sunrise Avenue, you are greeted by a variety of towering trees. Several cedars stretch 50 feet or more into the air. A row of enormous sycamores graces the front yards as Jackson curves toward its end at Hillcrest Road. A variety of other large trees join in creating an entrance to the center of old east Medford, a neighborhood known for its green canopy.

If the widening of Jackson Street goes forward as proposed, that entrance will instead take on many of the characteristics of a new subdivision, without the new houses. Many, perhaps most, of the big trees will be gone, either giving way to pavement or killed by root damage. Estimates suggest that three to four dozen could be lost.

We have said before that we thought the project was just too much. It would more than double the existing pavement, from 26 feet to 59 feet. The additional width comes from adding sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the street and adding a turn lane in the middle.

The neighbors would likely lose even more greenery, as they would be forced to create turn-around areas in their front yards or face the prospect of backing out into what would be transformed into a major thoroughfare.

You can make an argument for the improvements, which were designed by the city's Public Works Department to handle increasing flows of traffic. The upper section of Jackson Street is largely unimproved, with no curbs, gutters or sidewalks. But we think the neighbors who oppose the plan have a better argument ' and to their credit they're seeking a compromise rather than just opposing any changes. They will take their case to the Medford City Council on April 7.

The neighbors say they would prefer the project be scaled back by putting a narrower sidewalk only on the north side of the street and by eliminating the center turn lane. The single sidewalk would match up with the plan ultimately approved for Hillcrest Road, which links up with Jackson. The center turn lane seems like overkill. Drivers through the area will tell you that the number of delays that occur while waiting for a resident to turn into a driveway are few and far between.

This project makes some improvements that are needed, but then takes it a few steps too far. The extra steps would provide some benefit, but would change the nature of the neighborhood for decades to come. That's too high a price and the City Council should step forward to protect the neighborhood by asking for a scaled-back version.