Take Action for Environmental Justice and Road Safety in Somerville

LATEST UPDATE — JUNE 14, 2021

Today, the Somerville legislative delegation submitted this six-page letter to the MassDOT Capital Investment Plan (CIP) process for FY22. Concerned residents are once again encouraged to submit comments on the draft CIP before the end of the day today. Comment on the CIP may be made via email to [email protected]. You may also explore projects included in the draft CIP and provide comments online using the CIP Comment Tool, available via mass.gov/cip.

Also today, MassDOT has announced that a second Design Public Hearing relative to the I-93 Viaduct project will be held on June 30th at 6 pm. More information about how to participate in this meeting is available here via this file and this Word document. This meeting is being scheduled after last week's public meeting ended abruptly following intense criticism of MassDOT's plans from myself and other local officials, advocates, and residents. More about this was recently posted in the LivableStreets blog entitled "MassDOT Ghosts Somerville Critics at I-93 Virtual Public Meeting."


PREVIOUS UPDATE — JUNE 8, 2021

This evening at 6 pm, MassDOT will host a Live Virtual Design Public Hearing to discuss the so-called I-93 Viaduct Preservation Project.

To participate in tonight's meeting, please use the Zoom link posted here: https://www.mass.gov/event/somerville-virtual-design-public-hearing-notice-and-comment-period-2021-06-08t180000-0400-2021-06-08t200000-0400

In addition, written comments about the I-93 project will be accepted until June 18th via email to [email protected] (put “Attention: Major Projects, Project File No. 606528” in the subject line).

Also a reminder that tonight's I-93 project meeting follows last week’s meeting relative to MassDOT's FY22 Capital Investment Plan (CIP). The public comment period for the draft CIP has been extended through June 14. Comment on the CIP may be made via email to [email protected]. You may also explore projects included in the draft CIP and provide comments online using the CIP Comment Tool, available via mass.gov/cip.

Please attend tonight's meeting, and then please be sure to submit written comments to both the CIP process and the I-93 Project process as discussed above. Thank you!

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: In Dec. 2020, MassDOT told Somerville residents that urgently-needed road safety improvements would be constructed in the summer of 2022 as part of the Rt. 28/38 Intersection Safety Improvements Project. These improvements will address a “Top 200 Crash Location” where three pedestrians have been killed by automobiles in the past 2 years. However, last month, MassDOT announced the road safety project wouldn’t begin until 2023 and further revealed that an I-93 Viaduct Preservation Project would begin construction this year in the very same area. They say the goal of the I-93 project is to “preserve the life of the steel” on the I-93 automobile viaduct. At present, the I-93 project does not include any sound walls to mitigate the impact of noise pollution and the ultrafine particulate matter that has been associated with increases in cardiovascular disease and COVID-19 in the Environmental Justice communities in East Somerville and along Mystic Ave. 

Fortunately, our legislative delegation has succeeded in having funding language included in recent state bond bills to better address these concerns — but for this funding to be utilized, MassDOT must include these items in their pending Capital Investment Plan (“CIP”).

Therefore, we ask MassDOT utilize at least $2 million in state bond funds for noise barriers in the vicinity of East Somerville and at least $2 million for faster improvements to the Rt. 28/38 corridor in Somerville, including dense tree cover along Mystic Avenue and Foss Park and an expanded and accelerated road safety improvement project with elements such as raised crosswalks, sidewalk-level protected bike facilities, ADA-compliant pedestrian ramps, and a road diet for Rt. 28 north of Broadway. We ask that MassDOT support making these investments in addition to and as part of the pending $37 million I-93 viaduct project and the $6 million road safety project as discussed above. By prioritizing the needs of people over the needs of the interstate highway, MassDOT will be able to set an example for achieving equity and justice in densely-populated Environmental Justice communities across the Commonwealth.

In addition, we wish to thank MassDOT for responding to our advocacy with a commitment to construct a signalized crosswalk at Rt. 28 and Blakeley Avenue this summer, and we encourage them to go further and make additional commitments for road safety and ADA-compliance efforts this year.

Finally, we ask that MassDOT actively support our delegation in urging the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to act on language included in another recent bond bill to install triple-glazed windows as sound mitigation at the state-funded public housing on Mystic Avenue, which is home to hundreds of families who are directly impacted by I-93 pollution. The recently adopted Environmental Justice provisions of the Climate Roadmap Law support these funding requests for pollution mitigation and expanded and accelerated road safety elements as part of MassDOT’s pending projects in the area.

Our efforts to address these concerns have recently been featured in The Boston Globe, Boston.com, the Somerville JournalCambridge Daythe Livable Streets blog, and elsewhere. Please join us this evening and submit written comments to help us continue advocating for policies that prioritize people's lives ahead of automobiles and highways.


PREVIOUS UPDATE — FROM JUNE 1, 2021

At 6 pm this evening, MassDOT will host a Boston-area virtual meeting to discuss their FY22 Capital Investment Plan (“CIP”). This is the document that specifies how MassDOT will make capital investments in the new fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2021. At tonight's meeting, there will be a 20 minute presentation of the draft CIP followed by an opportunity for public comment. To participate, use this Join Zoom Meeting link. In addition, written comments will be accepted until June 7th via email. Send an email to [email protected] to make written comments. You may also explore projects included in the draft CIP and provide comments online using MassDOT's CIP Comment Tool, available via mass.gov/cip.

Last week, scores of Somerville resident called in to the MassDOT Board meeting to advocate pollution mitigation (such as sound barriers along I-93) and road safety improvements in the East Somerville and Mystic Avenue area where Rt. 28 meets Rt. 38. In addition, some 250 residents attended a rally with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Mayor Curtatone, myself, and other elected officials and local advocates to highlight these concerns. Tonight's CIP meeting and the public comment process that follows is our next chance to make our voices heard.

BACKGROUND: In Dec. 2020, MassDOT presented to Somerville residents that urgently needed road safety improvements would be constructed in the summer of 2022 as part of the Rt. 28/38 Intersection Safety Improvements Project. These improvements are intended to address a “Top 200 Crash Location” where three pedestrians have been killed by automobiles in the past two years. However, last month, MassDOT announced the road safety project wouldn’t begin until 2023 and further revealed that an I-93 Viaduct Preservation Project would begin construction later this year in the very same area. They say the goal of the I-93 project is to “preserve the life of the steel” on the interstate’s automobile viaduct. At present, the I-93 project does not include any sound walls to mitigate the impact of noise pollution and the ultrafine particulate matter that has been associated with increases in cardiovascular disease and COVID-19 in the Environmental Justice communities in East Somerville and along Mystic Ave. 

Fortunately, our legislative delegation has succeeded in having funding language included in recent state bond bills to better address these concerns — but for this funding to be utilized, MassDOT must include these items in their pending Capital Investment Plan (“CIP”). 

Therefore, we ask MassDOT to include at least $2 million for noise barriers in the vicinity of East Somerville and at least $2 million for improvements to the Rt. 28/38 corridor in Somerville, including dense tree cover along Mystic Avenue and Foss Park and an expanded and accelerated road safety improvement project with elements such as raised crosswalks, sidewalk-level protected bike facilities, ADA-compliant pedestrian ramps, and a road diet for Rt. 28 north of Broadway.We ask that MassDOT support making these investments in addition to and as part of the pending $6 million road safety project and the $37 million interstate project as discussed above. By authorizing the capital investments our legislative delegation secured in the recent Transportation Bond Bill, MassDOT will be able to set an example for achieving equity and justice in densely-populated Environmental Justice communities across the Commonwealth. Finally, we ask that MassDOT actively support our delegation in urging the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to act on language included in another recent bond bill to install triple-glazed windows as sound mitigation at the state-funded public housing on Mystic Avenue, which is home to hundreds of families who are directly impacted by I-93 pollution. The recently adopted Environmental Justice provisions of the Climate Roadmap Law support these funding requests for pollution mitigation and expanded and accelerated road safety elements as part of MassDOT’s pending projects in the area.