A Suburban Strip In Newton and Needham Is Getting a Complete Streets Makeover

A rendering of Needham Street in Newton, MA with raised protected bike lanes and new sidewalks. Courtesy of MassDOT.
A rendering of Needham Street in Newton, MA with raised protected bike lanes and new sidewalks. Courtesy of MassDOT.

MassDOT plans to begin construction this fall on a major reconstruction of the Highland-Needham Street corridor, which spans the Charles River in the towns of Newton and Needham.

Among other improvements, the project will build new protected bike lanes that will create a continuous, 1.8 mile bike route from Needham to Newton Highlands.

The corridor today – known as Highland Avenue in the town of Needham, and Needham Street in Newton – is extremely automobile-oriented, with crosswalks that lack ADA-accessible ramps, sidewalks that disappear into adjacent strip mall parking areas, and huge parking lots lining the street. One MBTA bus route (the 59) serves Needham Street in Newton, but currently the service is limited, with only 20 trips a day in each direction.

However, the corridor is slowly becoming more urban, with new development replacing the area’s dated office parks. In March, Newton voters overwhelmingly affirmed the city’s approval of the “Northland” mixed-use development proposal, which could bring 800 new homes along with new office buildings and retail spaces to the southern end of Needham Street, near the Charles River.

MassDOT’s “Newton-Needham Corridor Project” seeks to support the corridor’s growth with better bike and pedestrian accommodations. MassDOT will build all-new sidewalks and raised protected bike lanes along Needham Street in Newton, from its intersection with Winchester Street in the north to the Charles River in the south.

A map of MassDOT's Needham-Newton Corridor project. Roadways highlighted in red will be rebuilt with new sidewalks and raised protected bike lanes over the next two years. Courtesy of MassDOT.
A map of MassDOT’s Needham-Newton Corridor project. Roadways highlighted in red will be rebuilt over the next two years. Courtesy of MassDOT.

A short section of Winchester Street will also be rebuilt from Needham Street to the Route 9 overpass. This section won’t include bike lanes, but MassDOT will build a widened sidewalk that can function as a shared-use pathway to make the connection into the Newton Highlands neighborhood.

South of Newton, the project continues into Needham with a new deck for a historic stone bridge over the Charles River. That bridge will get widened sidewalks that will function as shared-use pathways for bikes and pedestrians:

The current Charles River Bridge that links Needham Street in Newton with Highland Avenue in Needham (top image) and a rendering of the proposed new bridge deck that will be built with widened shared-use pathways. Courtesy of MassDOT.
The current Charles River Bridge that links Needham Street in Newton with Highland Avenue in Needham (top image) and a rendering of the proposed new bridge deck that will be built with widened shared-use pathways. Courtesy of MassDOT.

Continuing south from the bridge, another stretch of raised protected bike lanes will continue up Needham’s Highland Avenue to the eastern edge of the massive Route 128 interchange, where MassDOT built sidewalks and buffered bike lanes a few years ago as a part of a huge highway widening project.

The project will also rebuild a short section of Highland Avenue west of the Route 128 interchange, which will add new sidewalks and a short section of raised protected bike lanes between Webster St. and Hunting Rd.

Work on the project is expected to begin in November, and is expected to continue into 2022.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG