Boston to Fast-Track Cummins Highway Road Diet With Temporary Materials

The City of Boston will test a proposed road diet on Cummins Highway in Mattapan with temporary materials later this summer. Photo illustration courtesy of the City of Boston Public Works Department.
The City of Boston will test a proposed road diet on Cummins Highway in Mattapan with temporary materials later this summer. Photo illustration courtesy of the City of Boston Public Works Department.

In an effort to control reckless driving during the COVID-19 pandemic and road-test its road diet proposal, the City of Boston Public Works Department will use construction barriers to turn Cummins Highway in Mattapan into a two-lane street for the rest of this summer.

As we reported in March, the Boston Public Works Department is recommending a major reconfiguration and reconstruction of Cummins Highway to reduce vehicle speeds by removing two motor vehicle lanes and installing protected bike lanes in their place:

The City of Boston's preferred concept for Cummins Highway would address safety concerns by reducing the street's width, widening sidewalks, and adding protected bike lanes. Courtesy of the City of Boston Public Works Department.
The City of Boston’s preferred concept for Cummins Highway would address safety concerns by reducing the street’s width, widening sidewalks, and adding protected bike lanes. Courtesy of the City of Boston Public Works Department.

Some drivers in the neighborhood have pushed back against the city’s recommendations, but the city has so far held firm in its recommendations, citing the necessity of reducing the carnage inflicted by speeding drivers.

Cummins Highway is an official part of Boston’s “high-crash network,” with 119 injury-causing crashes recorded on the street’s four-lane section between 2015 and 2018.

Last month, a driver struck and killed a person riding a bicycle on Cummins Highway near Richman Road.

Jeffrey Alexis, an engineer with the Boston Public Works Department, reported at an online public hearing last week (video below) that traffic speeds on Cummins Highway have gotten even more dangerous since the pandemic began.

“Vehicle speeds have increased 1.5 to 2 times on Cummins Highway compared to March of last year,” he said, according to a speed study conducted by MassDOT.

Now, dovetailing with the city’s “Healthy Streets” initiative, the city plans to implement their proposed road diet sooner with temporary materials, which they hope will provide a proof of concept for the permanent 2-lane reconstruction project.

“This will be a great opportunity to test safety improvements on Cummins Highway,” said Alexis. “Taking a cue from what some of the residents at our last community meeting expressed, we agree that the next step should be to test the lane reduction concept” with temporary materials.

Under the trial, the parking lanes of Cummins Highway will be converted to bike lanes, separated from traffic with water-filled construction barricades, and one travel lane in each direction would be converted as on-street parking (see the photo illustration at the top of this post).

Alexis said that the trial is scheduled to begin on July 24. Evaluation of the trial will continue over the summer and fall, and construction of the redesigned street is still scheduled to begin in spring 2021.

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