Wednesday evening, the Council’s Public Works subcommittee recommended that the Town Council approve the plan for Mt. Auburn Street that would reduce the number of travel lanes in most sections and add buffered bike lanes along many stretches.
The plan has been much discussed over the past several years, after the Town Council voted in 2013 to have the Department of Public Works and the town’s traffic engineering consultant, WorldTech Engineering, come up with plan for a “road diet” for the major artery between Watertown Square and the Cambridge line.
The project is a Complete Streets project, which means it is designed for all modes of transportation: motor vehicle, bicycles, pedestrians and public transportation. If the Town can get TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) funding, the entire $14 million budget will be covered entirely by the state, said Bill Mertz, vice president of WorldTech.
The plan would reduce the number of motor vehicle travel lanes from two lanes each way to one each way along most of the length of Mt. Auburn Street. Right turn lanes will be added at many intersections to help traffic flow more smoothly. Bicycle lanes will go the length of the roadway, some with painted buffers. A double buffered lane is used to give bicyclists space from traffic on one side and parked cars on the other, while single buffers are used in areas with no parking lane. Improvements to crosswalks and bus stops are also planned.
The plans have not changed since the most recent open house in May, Mertz said. See the latest renderings by clicking here.
The Mt. Auburn Street project starts on the west end at Patten Street (near Starbuck’s) and goes east to the Cambridge line (near Greg’s Restaurant). Designers broke the road into four sections, with differing road layouts:
Patten Street to Walnut Street
Road Diet (reducing to one lane each way) begins east of Common Street
Parker Street will be kept a two-way road
Bike Lanes: double buffered eastbound and traditional bike lanes (no buffers) westbound
Walnut Street to Dexter Avenue
A new traffic signal at Boylston Street (west)
An enhanced traffic island at Boylston Street (east)
Bike Lanes: double buffered eastbound and single buffered westbound
Dexter Avenue to Arlington Street (Coolidge Square)
An enhanced traffic island at Bigelow Avenue, which will be on the east side of the intersection instead of the west side, as it is now
A new traffic light and a bumped out sidewalk at Arlington Street and Grove Street
Bike Lanes: the entire length, mostly traditional bike lanes, some single buffered eastbound
Arlington Street to Cambridge line
Narrowing of Mt. Auburn Street just east of Arlington Street
Bike Lanes: double buffered both directions
A shared bus/bike lane as the roadway enters Cambridge as part of the Bus Priority Pilot Project
Some of the residents and Town Councilors in attendance worried about parking being removed from business districts.
District B Councilor Lisa Feltner said that there is parking being removed from Mt. Auburn Street between Parker and Chester (near Hair Cuttery) and between Irving Street and Phillips Street (near the Redeemer Church).
“We already have problems with parking,” Feltner said. “It’s impacting the neighborhood on the south side of Mt. Auburn Street.”
The parking is being removed from places where it is in intersections, or within 20 feet of an intersection, said Public Works Superintendent Gerald Mee.
“Inside the intersection of Common and Mt. Auburn (between Parker and Chester) there is parking that really shouldn’t be there,” Mee said. “It does not meet federal safety standards. Everyone’s goal is to reapply parking other places.”
Parking will be added across Mt. Auburn Street next to the cemetery, Mee said. Feltner said people don’t want to have to cross the street to get to the stores on the other side.
Mertz said the plans could still change, but the Town must submit the plans to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation soon to keep on schedule to get approved for the $14 million in funding in Fiscal Year 2022. The project would go to bid in October 2021.
“It seems like a long time but it is kind of a sprint for us,” Mertz said.
Town Engineer Matt Shuman said the Town has met with representatives from MassDOT, but until the 25 percent design plans are submitted the Town will not receive official comments from state officials about what looks good and what needs more work.
The Town will also have to submit 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent designs along with the plan specification and engineering (PS&E) designs before the project can go out to bid.
The subcommittee voted 2-0 to recommend the plan to go to the full Town Council to be approved. Councilor Tony Palomba voted “present,” saying he was not familiar enough with the current proposal to make a vote.
The Council will likely take up the project at its July 10 meeting, which will include an opportunity for residents to speak. Future public meetings will be held before each milestone (25 percent, 50 percent, etc.) is approved by the MassDOT. A public meeting about the project design is anticipated to be held in the summer of 2019.
Find out more at the Mount Auburn Street Project website, mountauburnstreet.com