Updates from MassDOT on Road Safety Improvements in East Somerville

DECEMBER 8, 2021

Earlier this year, our community came together to push for numerous commitments from MassDOT to make road safety improvements in the vicinity of Route 28 (McGrath Highway) and Route 38 (Mystic Avenue) in Somerville, in an area that has unfortunately come to be known as the "Corridor of Death." Some of these commitments, such as a new, signalized crosswalk at Blakeley Avenue, have already been completed. Others, such as the raised crosswalk at the Kensington Underpass, are now under construction. Throughout the fall, we have been pushing MassDOT for further action and updates on all of the items in need of attention. Posted below is the most recent set of updates from MassDOT on efforts in the vicinity of East Somerville. Our office will continue working with the Somerville legislative delegation, city officials and staff, local advocates, residents, and stakeholders to push for next steps to be completed as soon as possible – because one fatality or injury involving road traffic is one too many.

MassDOT Highway District 4 – East Somerville Roadway Improvements

Early Action Safety Improvements – the overall work is conceptually depicted in the attached PDF entitled Route 28 at Route 38_Early Action Safety Improvements_Conceptual Summary Plan (Click here to view full size file).

In an effort to implement the improvements as quickly as possible, the work was separated out into three phases. Phases 2 and 3 involve significant design detailing, the scope of which ultimately determines the implementation timeframe.

Phase 1 — Route 28 (McGrath Highway) at Blakeley Avenue – installation of signalized pedestrian crosswalk across Route 28 (McGrath Highway). The crossing signal was put into operation 6/30/21 and all work was completed as of 7/5/21. The improvements are depicted on the attached PDF entitled Route 28 at Blakeley Avenue_Early Action Safety Improvements. The cost of the work was $90,000 and was funded using non-federal aid funds. There is no further interim work anticipated at this location.

Phase 2— Kensington Connector Crossing - installation of raised crosswalks at the three individual crosswalks that make up the Kensington Connector passing beneath I-93 and at the crosswalk where Route 28 NB right turning traffic intersects Route 38 SB (just upstream of the Kensington Connector). The scope of work includes significant civil site work including drainage, curbing, guardrail, electrical conduit, installation of a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB), traffic signal modifications, paving and sidewalk/accessible ramp construction. The improvements are depicted on the attached PDF entitled Kensington Connector and Surrounding Area_Early Action Safety ImprovementsThe final design for Phase 2 was approved in early October 2021. MassDOT assigned the work to be constructed through an active ADA Improvement Contract. The contractor has ordered the longer lead time traffic equipment and had the area marked out for “Dig-Safe” in late October. The contractor commenced the physical work the week of November 15th. Sawcutting of pavement and drainage installation has been completed in the areas of the three raised crosswalks on the western side of I-93 and is ongoing in the area of the proposed raised crosswalk on Route 38 Northbound on the easterly side of I-93.  Once the drainage work is complete, the contractor expects to begin underground conduit installation for the RRFB at the Route 38 Northbound crosswalk. The contractor will continue to advance the work as long as feasible based on weather conditions. Based on the scope of work and pending winter weather conditions, the phase 2 work will not reach full beneficial use until spring 2022. The projected cost of the work is approximately $450-500,000 and will be funded using non-federal aid funds.

Phase 3 — Route 28/Route 38 intersection and surrounding areainstallation of upgraded ADA compliant access ramps and sidewalks in and around the intersection of Route 28 with Route 38. The scope of work includes significant civil site work including drainage, curbing, guardrail, electrical conduit, installation of a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB), significant traffic signal modifications, paving and sidewalk/accessible ramp construction, and guardrail/fencing modifications.  The improvements are depicted on the attached PDF entitled Route 28 at Route 38_Early Action Safety Improvements_ADA Upgrades (Click here to view full size file). The design consultant submitted the 50% design package to MassDOT in late October 2021. MassDOT has reviewed the submission and provided comments back to the design consultant. The consultant expects to submit the final plans to MassDOT in mid December 2021. Once approved, MassDOT will assign the work to be constructed through an active maintenance contract.  The contractor will be able to move forward with ordering any longer lead time items but the actual work would not commence until spring 2022.  The projected cost of the work is approximately $950,000 and will be funded using non-federal aid funds.

Route 28/Route 38 Capital Improvement Project  The work is part of the planned federal aid safety improvement project that will include the upgrading of traffic signal equipment along with bicycle/pedestrian and safety improvements in and around the Route 28 intersection with Route 38. The $6+ million project is currently at the 25% design stage. The design of the project is being closely coordinated with and will build upon the ongoing Early Action Safety Improvements. In an effort to help foster a change in context for drivers in this area, MassDOT evaluated the potential to reduce the number of travel lanes on Route 28 SB in the area approaching and continuing beneath I-93. This review, which was finalized in early November 2021, determined that it would be beneficial to eliminate one of the through travel lanes on Route 28 SB in the segment. This change will allow the affected space to be reallocated to provide improved accommodations for bicycles consistent with the principles of MassDOT’s Complete Streets approach and the goals of the City of Somerville. MassDOT met in late November with the design consultant to discuss the revised scope of work currently envisioned to be included in the capital project which incorporates changes associated with elements of the Early Action Safety Improvements and additional improvements made feasible by the elimination of the Route 28 Southbound travel lane. The design consultant expects to complete the updating of those plans by mid-December in preparation for a meeting with the City of Somerville Technical Staff.  Following that meeting, the consultant will update the formal 25% design submission, including the Functional Design Report and Design Justification Workbook so that the formal Design Public Hearing can be scheduled.

I-93 Viaduct Rehabilitation  The project includes major rehabilitation to address structural deficiencies to large areas of the substructure and superstructure on the I-93 Somerville Viaduct. The $38.8 million project was advertised for bids on 8/7/21. Bids were opened on 10/19/21; however, the award of the project is currently [on hold] while a review of the bids is completed. Work is not expected to commence until spring/summer 2022. As part of the changes identified at the 6/30/21 hearing, MassDOT was able to revise some of the work sequencing and incorporate some additional changes to eliminate some of the required detours as well as some of the durations.

Cambridge/Somerville - Route 28 Resurfacing and Safety Upgrades  The $17.3 million project includes resurfacing and bridge improvements on the section of Route 28 from Winter Street in Cambridge to Broadway in Somerville. As part of the project, the Route 28 cross-section will be reduced to eliminate a travel lane in each direction. The affected space will be reallocated to provide buffered bike lanes in each direction of Route 28.  In response to a request from Representative Connolly, MassDOT will assess available materials and products that could be used to provide for improved separation between vehicles and bicyclists, beyond the painted buffer and flex posts proposed in some areas. The installation of the final pavement markings and bike lanes will not occur until the latter portion of the project. MassDOT expects to commence discussions regarding alternative treatments with the City of Somerville and other stakeholders informally as part of the upcoming review of the Route 28/Route 38 capital improvement project described above. The contractor commenced work in mid-October 2021 with the installation of bridge shielding operations at the Route 28 bridge over the MBTA railroad/Somerville Avenue extension near the Somerville/Cambridge line (adjacent to Fitchburg Street). The shielding needs to be installed to support planned bridge deck repairs, which are scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2022. The shielding work is being completed during overnight hours due to access constraints during the day with the MBTA commuter rail operations and the ongoing work associated with the Green Line Extension. The shielding work at this location was partially completed in mid-November; however, operations were halted due to ongoing energization/testing of the overhead catenary system (OCS) associated with a portion of the Green Line Extension. There are several areas beneath the bridge that still require shielding to be installed in the areas of the OCS. MassDOT and the MBTA have discussed coordination efforts and a field meeting is scheduled for December 9 to determine the most practical path forward to complete the shielding installation in the coming weeks/month prior to the Green Line Extension reaching the pre-revenue demonstration or operational phases, while there are still longer time periods when the OCS is safely de-energized.  In addition, MassDOT is working with the MBTA/GLX team to coordinate access and work scopes in order to allow MassDOT’s contractor to install bridge shielding and a temporary bridge railing support system at the truss bridge located adjacent to the Highland Avenue/Medford Street intersection. That work is expected to be initiated as soon as practical while the OCS for that branch is still in the construction/installation phase and access to the railroad ROW is less restrictive. The contractor will also be scheduling some pothole patching/deck repairs prior to the full onset of winter.

MassDOT hopes this information and the graphical depictions the attached plans provide will help assist the delegation and the constituents in understanding the magnitude of time, resources and effort that has been put into play regarding the planning, design and implementation of the early action safety improvements since the public hearing on 6/30/21 and with the larger capital project for several years prior to that. We recognize the need for the improvements to reach a point where they can start to be visibly in the ground. We share that desire and are continuing to advance the project(s) as quickly as feasible. In total, the Early Action Safety Improvements include over $1.5 million in upgrades to the Route 28/Route 38 intersection and surrounding area to provide an improved level of modern, safer passage for pedestrians ahead of the larger capital project. However, because the Early Action Safety Improvements affect the same locus area, the design of the capital project has to be closely coordinated and has undergone further refinements to ensure all of the work is complimentary and meshes.