An air of excitement took hold of residents at a meeting Thursday night, as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation presented plans to the public for a $7 million reconstruction of East Broadway.
The Streetscape Improvements on Broadway project will see the road narrowed from four to two lanes, wider sidewalks will be built and new bike lanes added to Broadway from Garfield Avenue to the Boston city line in a two-year project that is slated to start construction in the fall.
Close to 40 people gathered to hear the news at the Cross Street Senior Centre, and most seemed impressed with the plans. One resident called the project a “home run.”
Alderman-at-large Dennis Sullivan was happy with the plans and what they would mean for Somerville.
“I’ve been involved with this project from the beginning and I think it puts the focus back on the neighborhood. It creates public safety and will make local establishments a place where people will want to go. I think it’s a great idea,” said Sullivan.
The aim of Thursday’s meeting was to present the plans to the local residents and listen to any comments and concerns raised.
Fewer traffic lanes, improved lighting and bus stops, wider sidewalks and bike lanes among planned improvements
Design Consultant for the project David Giangrande described the plans, which will include reduced traffic lanes between Cross Street and Lombardi Street, improved lighting for pedestrians and improved bus stops.
Mr. Giangrande said the primary goal of the project was to “promote safe and efficient traffic flow.”
Some sidewalks are expected to be widened by up to seven feet, while a five-and-a-half-foot bike lane will be installed close to the Garfield and Cross Street intersections.
Many residents agreed that the project is needed.
“It’s a neglected part of the city so this project is really important,” said Barbara Castro of Mt. Vernon Street. “I think we will see an improvement with businesses, and I hope it will also have an effect on residences too. It’s a great project and it’s well needed. I just wish it wouldn’t take two years.”
Local business owners are also eager for the project to get started. Lynn Gervens, the Director of pottery workshop and school, is among them.
“I’m very excited about the improvements to the streetscape and I think reducing the traffic lanes is a good idea,” said Gervens. “I’ve been coming to these meetings for many years and I’m anxious to see it started, I think it be a big improvement.”
Gerard Roy from Cutter Street was excited about the possible economic opportunities that could result from the project.
“It’s a great project and it beautifies an otherwise dreary street,” said Roy. “It will re-route traffic and I think stimulate economic growth with sidewalk cafes and restaurants putting tables outside.”
Concerns raised over narrower MBTA bus lanes, priorities questioned
A few issues were however raised, including the effect the road and sidewalk adjustments will have on public transport, but an MBTA representative was quick to acknowledge the organization’s support for the project.
“We are comfortable with smaller lanes and we are confident our buses can operate safely, we are very happy with it,” said MBTA Transportation Planner Jeremy Mandelson, noting that the MBTA has reviewed the plans and is happy with the design.
Since the meeting was , one reader has posted comments filled with numerous concerns about the project, including that “With traffic congested everywhere, potholes, crumbling bridges, and busted snow removal budgets, how does spending over $3,000,000 to narrow a major road qualify as either an "improvement" or wise spending of limited tax dollars?”
The mood at the meeting, however, remained positive.
The new Chief of the East Somerville Police Station, Captain James Fallon, was also in attendance and said he was “excited” to be a part of it and that the police would lend any assistance they could to help with public safety.
Residents can make comments and suggestions related to the project over the next week as the Department of Transportation undergoes its public consultation phase.