The process of grounding McGrath Highway takes another important step on Thursday, April 4, when representatives of the Department of Public Health will present the findings of their Health Impact Assessment. The meeting will run from 4pm-6pm at the Holiday Inn in Somerville (30 Washington St.) and I encourage you to attend. You can read more about MassDOT’s efforts to ground McGrath here.
On the evening of Wednesday, December 14th, residents, activists, representatives from NorthPoint developer HYM, and architects and planners from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation gathered at the Kennedy-Longfellow school to discuss the latest changes and developments in the design of the new Lechmere Station.
From the changes that have been made as the station design has evolved, it is clear that the public design process has produced a station design much more in line with the community’s vision of an ideal Lechmere station. The station entrance has been moved to a location more equally accessible by East Cambridge residents. What was a narrow space between the station and McGrath has been widened to 30 feet, a change enabled by alterations to the path of First Street. The design of the station has been altered to promote a more even flow of pedestrians coming from all directions, and a more direct route to the Lechmere bus stop when crossing from East Cambridge.
While these changes are strong steps forward, it is clear from the questions and comments directed toward MassDOT at the end of the meeting that a number of concerns about pedestrian safety and access have not yet been assuaged by station designers. There is still a long pedestrian crosswalk that must traverse a busy section of the McGrath Highway/Boulevard. Developer HYM has made a number of suggestions to MassDOT about how this crossing can be approached in a way that maximizes pedestrian safety and comfort. Their suggestions include using different lighting and paving elements at the intersection of McGrath and First Street to encourage drivers to slow down and eliminating the right hand turn lane from the inbound side of McGrath. I am looking forward to seeing what MassDOT puts forward in reaction to these suggested improvements.
Another concern that was voiced by several members of the meeting’s audience was that bus access to East Cambridge will be diminished by the relocation of the station. Moving Lechmere across McGrath will require buses to turn off of Cambridge Street at Third Street, and reroute buses away from destinations like the Courthouse. Access to buses, particularly for the elderly and disabled, is a primary concern of mine, and I am interested to see how these concerns will be addressed.
As a final part of the meeting, MassDOT officials briefly discussed the potential for phased construction of the Green Line Extension and what that will mean for Lechmere’s completion date. Because of Lechmere’s placement in an early construction phase, the new station could be open in early 2017, well ahead of the projected 2019 date for the completion of the entire extension. This is very exciting news, and I will be pushing for a commitment from MassDOT to begin phased construction as soon as possible.
MassDOT has also announced that there will be a number of meetings coming up in the near future. Be on the lookout for Washington Street and Union Square station design meetings in late January, and meetings about the Maintenance Facility and Community Path in early April. I will post more detailed meeting information on my community blog as soon as it is available.
In May, I joined several of my colleagues on a site visit to two intersections in Somerville that posed a possible safety hazard to pedestrians due to the layout of the crosswalks and condition of the markings. During the site visit, I discussed the concerns that I had and the concerns that residents had expressed about the intersections with officials from MassHighway. I have learned that MassHighway has developed initial plans to signalize the crossings, a step that would significantly improve pedestrian safety.
Because these improvements are still only in the initial planning stages, I will be continuing to use this space to provide updates on the project as new developments are communicated to me in the weeks and months to come.
Somerville High School Auditorium – map
A public informational meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 20th at 6:00 p.m. in the Somerville High School auditorium to discuss the future of the McGrath O’Brien Highway. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), which gained ownership of the Route 28 corridor as a part of the 2009 transportation reorganization law, has begun a conceptual planning study in partnership with the City of Somerville to consider the future use of the highway and the potential for the removal of its elevated sections.
There is an exciting opportunity here to participate in the planning of a Route 28 that offers greater access and promotes connectivity. Lowering McGrath would allow us the opportunity to take what is now a barrier that divides neighborhoods in East Somerville, and change it into a destination that unites neighbors instead. The future Green Line Extension also creates a significant opportunity to redesign McGrath into a space that is mindful of multi-modal transportation and serves to nourish local businesses.
I encourage you to attend this meeting if you have an interest in planning the future of this highway. Renovations to the McCarthy Overpass (which carries Rt 28 over Washington Street) will also be discussed, and there will be a question and answer session with MassDOT officials at the end of the meeting.
Should you require access or language accommodations, please contact Regan Checchio at email@example.com or 617-357-5772 x14.