Somerville was severed by McGrath Highway more than 60 years ago. The McCarthy Overpass section between Somerville Ave, and crossing over Washington Street, is an aging structure now tagged for an $11-million repair by MassDOT.
Rather than being an investment in our community, the repair will only prolong our suffering by keeping the highway in place for at least another 10 years, even though there is deep support in the community to remove the overpass immediately.
On May 31 at 6 p.m., the fate of the McCarthy Overpass section of McGrath Highway will be discussed at a public meeting at the Argenziano School on Washington Street. The meeting will discuss how 3,000 people who live near the highway and more than 30,000 people who use the road daily will be impacted for more than 10 years. The meeting is hosted by Mayor Curtatone and the Somerville legislative delegation. Representatives from MassDOT will answer questions.
A third of the city's population is effectively blocked access to employment and local shopping by McGrath Highway. The land to the east of McGrath Highway basically sits idle, at a time when the city is actively looking to develop a broader commercial tax base. Connections between the eastern and western parts of the city are difficult and dangerous for people who drive, walk, bike or take public transportation. Children can often be seen trying to dodge high-speed traffic to get from one side to the other.
Not only is McGrath economically disastrous for our city, it is a disastrous as a roadway. Since I-93 opened 40 years ago, McGrath has been a redundant highway. Over the past decade, traffic has decreased by 15% on McGrath Highway, and it will continue to decrease as the Green Line Extension opens. McGrath carries approximately the same amount of traffic as tree-lined and walkable Mass Ave in Back Bay. License plate studies show that most drivers using McGrath are from Somerville or neighboring cities. It is a city street disguised as a highway.
Removing the Overpass and replacing it with an at-grade network of city streets would be the biggest de-paving party ever! There is enough space for a park almost 10 acres in size with plenty of room left over to carry cars and trucks across our city. The McCarthy Overpass section of McGrath Highway sits in the Millers River watershed, and reducing the amount of asphalt in the area would go a long way to preventing flooding in that area of town. We've already experienced how bad this can be with floating police cars in the basement of the Public Safety building in 2010.
Highway removal will bring more vitality to the city, make our neighborhoods healthier and increase the tax base to fund our schools. It has worked in other cities like New Haven, Milwaukee and San Fransisco. Boston has removed the overpass at Sullivan Square and is removing the Casey Overpass in Jamaica Plain. Though MassDOT has begun to study grounding McGrath, why should Somerville have to wait another half-generation to get what we need? McGrath Highway and the McCarthy Overpass are a heavy burden on our city.
Please attend Thursday's meeting at 6 p.m. at the Argenziano School and bring a neighbor. If you'd like to learn more, come at 4:30 p.m. and talk to LivableStreets represenatives and get invovled. Working together, we can bring positive change to Somerville! For more information on McGrath, check out www.removemcgrath.org.