This Week: Two MassDOT Public Hearings on Safety Priorities in Somerville
Following a well-attended rally for safer roads last week, elected officials and advocates from the Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets are focusing on driving turnout to two key MassDOT public hearings in the coming week: a June 1 hearing on the agency’s capital budget, which funds major construction projects, and a June 8 hearing on the agency’s proposed $37 million I-93 viaduct rehabilitation project.
As reported here last week, state highway officials for fast-tracking a $37 million project to repair the I-93 viaduct above Mystic Avenue ahead of a modest $6 million safety project for nearby surface roadways, where reckless drivers regularly kill, maim, and threaten residents.
In July 2019, a motorist on Mystic Avenue killed Cheryl Pauline Richards, 52, of Somerville, as she was using the crosswalk on Mystic Avenue at the Kensington underpass.
A month later, another hit-and-run driver killed Kevin Dumont, 68, in a Mystic Avenue crosswalk at Shore Road.
This April, another hit-and-run driver struck Marshall Mac, a 72-year-old Vietnam War veteran, on McGrath Highway near Foss Park. Mac later died of his injuries.
The highway viaduct project is expected to get underway later this year; meanwhile, the schedule for the safety improvement project, which had originally been set to get underway in 2022, has slipped to 2023.
“I’m so furious that after three deaths in two years MassDOT has done nothing for us. Nothing,” said Mystic Avenue resident Emily Vides at the May 26 rally. “But even though I’m angry I’m also quite hopeful. Because all of you are here. And if we can keep the pressure up, maybe they can make changes that are more than just superficial.”
Elected officials at last Wednesday’s rally told the crowd that funding for safety improvements is already in place, but it’s up to MassDOT to actually spend that money.
“Working with Sen. Jehlen, Rep. Connolly, Rep. Uyterhoeven, we’ve secured money in a bond bill, $2 million,” said Rep. Christine Barber, who represents parts of Somerville and Medford. “It’s a start, it’s not enough, but we’ve secured money for pedestrian improvements, and another $2 million for sound barriers (on I-93). We’ve secured that money, but MassDOT needs to spend it. ”
Rep. Barber, Rep. Mike Connolly, who represents East Somerville and adjoining parts of Cambridge, and advocates from the newly-formed Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets are urging advocates to weigh in at tonight’s MassDOT capital budget public hearing (held via Zoom teleconference) to ask the agency to schedule the safety improvement project within the upcoming fiscal year.
Next steps on #HighwayJustice TODAY:
MassDOT's local area meeting on their capital plan, let them know we need at least $2m for pedestrian safety at Mystic and McGrath and sound walls.
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or attend tonite's meeting:https://t.co/SyqCBMHKRP pic.twitter.com/NqEdLbVFu4
— Christine Barber (@Barber4StateRep) June 1, 2021
They’re also hoping to drive turnout to a Tuesday, June 8 virtual public hearing on MassDOT’s proposed viaduct repair project, in hopes that more safety improvements can be added into that project.
The grassroots pressure may be having an effect: last week, in response to a press inquiry from StreetsblogMASS, MassDOT officials said that they’re expediting some safety improvements, including a new crosswalk on McGrath Highway at Blakeley Avenue and additional traffic calming measures in the vicinity of the Kensington pedestrian walkway, “as quickly as possible.”
Public hearing information:
Tuesday, June 1, 6-8 PM
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 892 4730 4438
Tuesday, June 8, 6-8 PM
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 882 5227 4107