Speaking at a Somerville Board of Aldermen meeting Nov. 22, Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan called it "a tragedy waiting to happen."
"Plastic ties, Madame President, separating children from the highway!" he said, speaking to Board of Aldermen President Rebekah Gewirtz.
Sullivan was talking about the flimsy and partially fallen down chain link fence that separates Interstate 93 from the Nunnery Grounds, an East Somerville neighborhood that borders the highway, north of Broadway.
Sullivan said he can't think of any other town in the state that has a neighborhood so exposed to the highway. Most communities near highways have "big sound barriers" and "concrete walls," he said.
"It would not be tolerated, I don't think, in any other community [in the state]," said Alderman At-Large William White.
"It's a piece-of-crap type fence, in plain English," he said of the current barrier between the neighborhood and the highway.
"A lot of kids, close to the highway: It's an invitation for disaster," he said.
In addition to homes that are close to the highway and it's auxiliary roads, Harris Park, a concrete space with some run-down basketball hoops, is right on the border of the roadways, also separated by nothing more than a chain link fence. The city has plans to move Harris Park to a new location closer to Broadway.
"If you think about how close that neighborhood is [to the highway], it's pretty much a disgrace, the amount of money that's spent, or lack thereof, to have something like that," White said.
The impacts of the highway on nearby neighborhoods are not new. Among other things, , in partnership with other community organizations, including the , has been studying the health impacts of the highway in Somerville.
It's that the problem is not new—it's old—that seems to agitate the aldermen. "This is something we talk about over and over," Sullivan said. The aldermen would like the state to build a sturdy noise barrier between the neighborhood and the highway.