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DCR Reportedly Backpedaling On Planned Cambridge Safety Project

A “short-term” safety improvement plan dated from May 2018 shows proposed traffic-calming elements for the junction of Mount Auburn Street and Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge. Source: Mount Auburn Street Corridor Study.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is expected to present updated designs for the intersection of Fresh Pond Parkway and Mount Auburn Street in West Cambridge in a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening, but advocates are concerned that a key component of the project – a road diet on Gerry's Landing Road that would have made room for a two-way cycletrack to the Charles River – is reportedly being postponed.

That intersection and others in the area were the subject of a detailed 2018 corridor study, which, in recognition of the high potential for bike and pedestrian traffic bound for the Charles River, recommended a "short-term" design concept (illustrated above) that would have reduced the width of Gerry's Landing Road, reduced crossing distances, and added protected bikeways.

That study called for the "short-term" implementation of "a separated bicycle track along the southbound side of Gerry’s Landing Road (from Coolidge Avenue to the Memorial Drive intersection) to provide cyclists with their own crossings over Gerry’s Landing Road in order to access the Charles River shared-use path."

The Gerry's Landing bikeway would have replaced one of the three southbound lanes of Gerry's Landing Road, and extended a quarter-mile to the Charles River waterfront near the Elliot Bridge.

But according to state Senator William Brownsberger, who says that he has been informed of the DCR's plans, the Gerry's Landing road diet and cycletrack have been postponed so that DCR can prioritize car traffic, although other elements of the plan are still in place.

"They are implementing the road diet north of Mount Auburn and south of Mount Auburn immediately at the intersection, where there will be a bumpout. But further south of the bumpout, the consensus is that the traffic patterns just will not work until we redo the whole Elliot Bridge junction," wrote Brownsberger in an email to StreetsblogMASS over the weekend. "The design of that junction needs a lot more work - they didn't have a viable design, just some sketches that didn't stand up to traffic modeling."

"If they don't do it, it would be a real shame because that connection was one of the most valuable parts of this short-term design concept," said Nathaniel Fillmore of Cambridge Bicycle Safety in a phone conversation last Friday. "There would be a lot more people bike riding between the Charles River paths and the neighborhoods to the north if there were a safe way to do it."

But Senator Brownsberger says that he still supports the plan because it still delivers big improvements over the status quo.

"I am an active pedestrian and cyclist who commutes through this intersection to the Charles," wrote the Senator. "I support DCR's decision not to do the road diet on Gerry's Landing down towards Memorial Drive."

According to MassDOT crash data, the intersection of Fresh Pond Parkway, Mount Auburn Street, and Gerrys Landing Road has seen 29 crashes since 2017, including one crash that injured a bicycle user and another crash that injured someone walking.

Since the Mount Auburn Street corridor study was completed in 2018, DCR has implemented a handful of its other short-term recommendations, including new bus lanes on Mount Auburn Street and a reduction in speed limits to 25 mph.

Public meeting information:

Mount Auburn Street Corridor Study public hearing
When: Tuesday, February 4, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Where: Haggerty School Cafeteria, 110 Cushing Street, Cambridge. Take MBTA bus routes 73 or 75.

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