Somerville Gets $5 Million for Highway Sound Barriers in Transportation Bill
The transportation bond bill also allocates $575,000 for projects along Route 16.
In a $1.5 billion transportation bond bill signed by Gov. Deval Patrick Thursday, Somerville is set to receive $5,575,000 in earmarks for projects in the city.
The bulk of that, $5 million, is pegged for building sound barriers along Interstate 93 near the Nunnery Grounds neighborhood—between Cross and Mount Vernon streets north of Broadway in East Somerville.
The issue of sound barriers—or lack of sound barriers, rather—is one that has roiled some members of the Somerville Board of Aldermen in the past.
Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan, speaking in November of 2011, said most communities have sound barriers and concrete walls separating neighborhoods from highways, and he said the lack of such structures in Somerville was "a tragedy waiting to happen."
Alderman At-Large William White said, "It would not be tolerated, I don't think, in any other community [in the state]."
White said he appreciated the fact the state was funding this project, saying "it was a long time coming."
Sullivan said he was cautiously optimistic about the earmark but wanted to make sure it's fully funded. "I think it makes sense" to install sound barriers, he said. "It's something I've been trying to do for years."
Two other Somerville projects were also earmarked in the transportation bond bill:
- $500,000 for improvements to the intersection of Route 16 and Boston Avenue
- $75,000 for improving pedestrian safety on Route 16 near Dilboy Stadium
There was no specific allocation for the Green Line Extension, according to Cyndi Roy, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
"We currently have enough funding to fully fund phases one and two of the project," she said in an email. Phase 1 of the Green Line Extension includes bridge, demolition and design work. Phase "2/2A" would bring the Green Line to Washington Street and Union Square stations. Phase 3 is the construction of a maintenance facility and Phase 4 is extending service from Washington Street to College Avenue in Medford.
In signing the $1.5 billion transportation bond bill Thursday, Patrick said it helps strengthen the economy and "quality of life for the long term.”
“Our transportation infrastructure had suffered from years of neglect, so this administration started rebuilding roads, rails and bridges in every corner of our state and creating thousands of jobs," Patrick said after he enacted the bill, which enjoyed the strong support of the state legislature, passing the House by a vote of 150-2 on July 31, the last day of the session.
The bond bill ensures funding for many projects already under way and allots money for the planning of future improvements across the state.
It also continues funding for the final year of 2008's five-year Accelerated Bridge Program, the largest statewide infrastructure investment program ever, according to the administration. The bridge program has reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges by almost 20 percent, the governor's office said.