East Somerville Pin-Up Ideas: 3

Pin-Up Ideas22

After a short hiatus during the winter holidays, we’re back! This is the third of multiple posts covering all of the ideas generated at the Somerville by Design: East Somerville Design Charrette that was held September 30 – October 2, 2013. We have numbered all of the images so that it is easier to reference them when providing feedback.

Feedback should be provided using the comments section below to facilitate discussion among the entire community of East Somerville for each idea presented. For any further questions, please contact the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development at 617-625-6600.

First, a quick reminder of an important project going on related to this specific post:

MassDOT is currently conducting Grounding McGrath: Determining the Future of the Route 28 Corridor (Grounding McGrath Study) in response to the following:

  • The McCarthy Overpass, which is the elevated structure that carries Route 28 (McGrath Highway) over Washington Street in Somerville, is currently in need of substantial repairs
  • Several significant planning and economic development efforts are underway for the areas adjacent to the Route 28 (McGrath Highway) corridor
  • Extension of the MBTA Green Line to Somerville and Medford has entered the design/construction phase and has the potential to significantly affect the area
  • The City of Somerville has expressed a desire to modify Route 28 (McGrath Highway) from its current “other freeway” classification to a roadway more like a boulevard
  • Moving forward, the Route 28 corridor through Somerville and Cambridge will continue to play a pivotal role in providing multimodal access for the area and adjacent neighborhoods

This conceptual planning study is providing MassDOT and the general public with an opportunity to consider the future functionality of the roadway, potential removal of elevated portions, and to enhance access for all modes of travel.  The Grounding McGrath Study will seek to not only balance the needs of all transportation users, but to also facilitate connections along the corridor, and encourage development that will have a positive impact on the neighborhoods and the region as a whole.

The study area for the Grounding McGrath project is the Route 28 corridor from Broadway in Somerville in the north to Land Boulevard in Cambridge in the south (see Figure ES- 1). It comprises McGrath Highway and Monsignor O’Brien Highway. McGrath Highway runs from the junction with Mystic Avenue/Interstate 93 to the north (beyond which Route 28
is named the Fellsway) to the municipal boundary with Cambridge to the south. Route 28 is Monsignor O’Brien Highway through Cambridge to the municipal boundary with Boston. For purposes of this study, the entire length of Route 28 within the study area is generally referred to as the “McGrath corridor.”

Study AreaStudy Area

Study Area 2

During the visioning sessions and East Somerville design charrette, residents and stakeholders alike expressed an interest in exploring ways the Broadway and McGrath Highway intersection might be redesigned. This specific issue is not being explored as part of the Grounding McGrath Study. Even though there are crosswalks, the intersection of McGrath Highway and Broadway is barely passable because of the wide travel lanes and limited pedestrian signal length. In short, the intersection is intimidating. Let’s look at a quick overview how these two thoroughfares meet:


The intersection of Broadway at McGrath Highway forms a four-legged signalized intersection. Broadway runs in a northwest to southeast direction while McGrath Highway runs in a northeast to southwest direction. Both of the McGrath Highway approaches consist of one left turn lane, one through/left turn lane, one  through lane, and one through/right turn lane. The Broadway northwest bound approach (headed toward Winter Hill) consists of one left turn lane, one through/left turn lane, one through lane, and one channelized right turn lane. The Broadway southeast bound approach (toward Sullivan Square) consists of one left turn lane, one through/left turn lane, two through lanes, and one right turn lane. Medians are present along Broadway and McGrath Highway at the intersection. The medians along Broadway are landscaped. Sidewalks and crosswalks are present on all approaches.  Cyclists must share the roadway with automobiles.

McGrath Highway (Route 28) serves as a major arterial providing regional connections from Mystic Avenue/Interstate 93 to Medford, Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston and, in the reverse trip, from Storrow Drive (Boston) and Memorial Drive (Cambridge) to Interstate 93. Only 10 percent of vehicles observed in the AM period use the McGrath corridor segment from the Otis Street pedestrian bridge to the Museum of Science. About 39 percent of vehicles observed exited at Washington Street, indicating the McGrath corridor is used more for access to and from destinations in Somerville and Cambridge than as a through route to Boston.

Traffic Engineers have graded the Broadway and McGrath Highway intersection at a D “Level of Service” (just like grades in school) during the morning peak period, and an even worse grade of E in the evening peak with long queues and high delays for the northbound and southbound left-turn movements.

The McGrath/Broadway IntersectionMcGrath Intersection

The project team working on the East Somerville neighborhood plan does not have the resources needed to conduct a robust study of potential redesigns of the McGrath/Broadway intersection itself. More is needed. However, designers and transportation planners on the team decided to explore the issue with concerned residents and business owners to bring the design of the intersection into the public conversation because it had not been addressed previously.  At the work-in-progress presentation at the end of the design charrette, the project team presented two hypothetical redesigns that can be found below. Both of the designs were meant to start a conversation about challenges and opportunities of the intersection.

CONCEPT 6Pin-Up Ideas24

The first concept developed for the McGrath/Broadway intersection is to change the intersection into the traditional New England style rotary. The redesign would reduce the roadway width for vehicles and make several pedestrian scale improvements to the intersection including: separating the inbound/outbound travel lanes, give pedestrians a large area of refuge between crossings, and increase the amount of treecover.

CONCEPT 7Pin-Up Ideas26Pin-Up Ideas27

Another possible solution is to build an underpass for McGrath Highway. This is similar to the Huntington Avenue/Mass Ave intersection in Boston or Dupont Circle in Washington DC. One ramping lane to/from McGrath would intersect with Broadway, but otherwise, Broadway would become a continuous street connecting East Somerville with Winter Hill.

Pin-Up Ideas25

Any redesign of the Broadway/McGrath Intersection should adhere to the goals of the Grounding McGrath Study:

1. Improve Access and Mobility: Move people efficiently by all modes along and across the corridor, on all local and regional desire lines

  • Improve regional and local travel time
  • Improve health of residents
  • Facilitate multi-modal transportation opportunities

2. Promote Connectivity: Improve the cohesion of abutting neighborhoods for the sake of community, place-making and economic development

  • Identify new connections
  • Improve urban form/places
  • Improve access to open space
  • Support and/or generate economic development

3. Improve and Balance Functionality: Ensure cost-effective and efficient use of many modes

  • Enhance safety for all modes
  • Maintain regional travel capacity
  • Limit impacts on surrounding roadways

4. Provide Accountability: Advance a design that is sensitive to the needs and desires of stakeholders

  • Share benefits and burdens of changes
  • Limit impact to environment
  • Ensurelong-term corridor maintainability

For more info…

Please visit MassDOT’s Grounding McGrath webpage: http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/groundingmcgrath/Home.aspx

We look forward to your feedback concerning the Broadway/McGrath Intersection.

Be sure to check out all of the East Somerville idea posts:












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