When work finishes on one of Watertown’s major arteries, the street will have fewer lanes in some places, protected bike lanes, and landscaped areas for people to gather.
Mt. Auburn Street will receive a major facelift, and be redesigned in some places, during the project that will impact almost the entire length of the artery that runs from Watertown Square to the Cambridge line.
The City submitted the 100 percent designs for the Mt. Auburn St. in May, and in September the project will be advertised to seek contractors and subcontractors. Details of the project were presented at an open house at Perkins School for the Blind in June.
Since the plans were last presented, designers have added truck loading and delivery areas in Coolidge Square, removed a traffic light, and added a bit more parking in commercial areas.
While the project has not officially started, much construction will take place before work on the project begins. The first step was deactivating the catenary lines (the electrical wires) for the MBTA buses on Mt. Auburn Street. Other pre-project work includes replacement of natural gas lines by National Grid, and MWRA water main replacement on the roadway from Russell Avenue to Irving Street.
One of the most discussed aspects of the project is the “road diet,” where parts of Mt. Auburn Street will be reduced from two travel lanes each way to one, with left turn lanes at larger intersections. The road diet begins east of Common Street because west of that area the intersections and traffic volume does not support the diet, said Kris Surrette of Tighe & Bond, the project designers.
Some traffic signals will be altered during the project.
The light at Mt. Auburn and Common streets will no longer have the same traffic pattern, Surrette said.
“Parker Street will no longer be part of the Common Street signal,” he said. “We removed this intersection leg from the signal based on feedback we received from the DOT, MBTA, and the overall intersection delay that this leg of the intersection created as part of the traffic signal.”
One planned new signal was dropped from the plans.
“During the 25 percent design we showed a traffic signal at this location. Moving forward we have proposed an overhead flashing beacon,” Surrette said. “Additional traffic counts and analysis were taken at this location and a traffic signal was not warranted.”
Currently, businesses on Mt. Auburn in the East End that get items delivered by trucks use one of the two lanes to unload deliveries. With the road diet, many business owners worried about how they would receive these deliveries.
“Based on our meeting with business owners in the Coolidge Square business district we have implemented loading and delivery zones at select locations within Coolidge Square,” Surrette said.
The loading zones are located in four spots along the westbound side of Mt. Auburn Street, as well as just off the street on Dexter Avenue, Upland Road, Melendy Avenue, Lloyd Road, Elton Avenue, and Kimball Road.
The intersection at Elton Avenue has been reconfigured, and a parking space has been gained on Mt. Auburn St., Surrette said.
The renovation is a Complete Streets project where the corridor is designed not only looking at motor vehicles, but also public transportation, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
Bike lanes will be located on both sides of Mt. Auburn street between Common Street and the Cambridge line. Many stretches of Mt. Auburn Street will have buffered bicycle lanes, where the roadway will have markings between the auto traffic lane and the bike lane. In a few areas, there will be a double buffer, with markings also between parked cars and the bike lane.
Heading east from Common Street, there will be a double buffered bike lane on Mt. Auburn Street from Walnut Street to Boylston Street. In Coolidge Square, there will be a single buffer on the parking side of the bike lane. This stretches from Elton Avenue to Prentiss Street where a double buffered area starts and runs to Cottage Avenue. One the last block before the Cambridge line (at Belmont Street) the bike lane merges with the dedicated bus lane.
Westbound, there is a double buffered bike lane that starts a short distance from the Cambridge line and ends at Keenan Street. A single buffer on the traffic side of the bike lane begins at Upland Road, runs through the School Street intersection and ends at Garfield Street.
Bicycle parking will be located at multiple locations on commercial blocks, bus stops, gathering areas, and other locations, said Skyler Chick, a landscape architect with Shadley Associates.
For pedestrians, there will be rapid flashing beacons at crosswalks on Mt. Auburn at Boylston Street (west side), Winthrop Street, Langdon Avenue, Adams Street and Dexter Avenue.
The crosswalk currently located at Oakley Road has been moved west to Boylston Street, where there will be an overhead flashing beacon to alert motorists that someone is crossing.
A crosswalk will be added at Mt. Auburn Street and Bigelow Avenue. Currently there are two crosswalks — one across Bigelow Avenue and one east of Bigelow — and a third will be added on from the sidewalk in front of Deluxe Town Diner crossing Mt. Auburn Street.
“We are required to provide a crosswalk at each leg of the intersection,” Surrette said.
Benches will be placed along the corridor to create resting points, Chick said. They will be located at bus stops when possible.
Several major intersections will be enhanced to create places for people to gather, and will include seating, bicycle parking, trash receptacles, and in some areas “gateway walls,” Chick said. These include the Mt. Auburn Street intersections at Boylston Street (east), Bigelow Avenue, as well as at the intersection of Arlington and Grove streets.
“At Bigelow and Mt. Auburn we have another area,” Chick said. “This is in the heart of Coolidge Square. At the corner facing the intersection we are proposing a long curved granite wall engraved with the words ‘Coolidge Square.'”
Another placemaking sign will be placed at the intersection of Arlington and Grove Street. The landscaped areas will follow Arlington Street as it curves away from Grove Street. Benches will be placed near a grassy area where there will be trees, shrubs and other plantings.
At Boylston Street, the sidewalk area will be expanded near the St. James Armenian Church, with benches shaded by trees, with other landscaping added.
The project includes adding trees and other plants along the length of Mt. Auburn Street.
“We want to enhance the existing tree canopy by infilling with new trees,” Chick said. “We also want to increase the diversity of tree species. Diversity in plant species is critical for the longevity of the landscaping.”
A variety of plants and trees species will be chosen to give the area seasonal interest with flowing trees and different colors during the fall. Also, plants and trees that help pollinators and wildlife will be selected, Chick said.
Part of the Mt. Auburn Street redesign includes some changes to bus stops to improve bus operations.
“Several bus stops will be relocated,” Surrette said. “This is from feedback from abutters, from the City of Watertown, and also from the MBTA.”
The stops impacted are: Amherst Street westbound, Boylston Street (west) eastbound, and Adams Avenue eastbound.
See videos about the Mt. Auburn Street project and detailed drawings by clicking here.