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MassDOT Calls Harvard Bridge Road Diet ‘Extremely Effective,’ Says Changes Will Become Permanent This Fall

5:00 AM EDT on October 24, 2022

A row of cones delineates a bike lane on the Mass. Ave. bridge. A bicycle rider coasts by on one side of the cones while a car drives by to the left. On the horizon are the skyscrapers of the Back Bay neighborhood reflecting the late-afternoon sunlight.

A row of cones has delineated a temporary bike lane on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge between Boston and Cambridge since November 2021, when this photo was taken. This week, MassDOT announced its intention to make the reconfiguration permanent, and replace the cones with flexible-post bollards.

MassDOT has deemed a pilot road configuration that reduced the number of car lanes and widened bike lanes on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge a success, and is making plans to make the new roadway layout permanent by painting new lanes, adjusting traffic signals, and installing flexible-post bollards in the next few weeks.

The changes will also free up space for new dedicated bus lanes on Massachusetts Avenue on either end of the bridge in Cambridge and Boston.

"We've had a pilot in place long-term since last year for bike lanes on the Mass. Ave. Bridge (also known as the Harvard Bridge). We are making these permanent," MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver announced at last Wednesday's MassDOT board meeting.

"This has been an extremely effective pilot," continued Gulliver. "We had a lot of use out of the bike lanes throughout the entire period without any major impacts to traffic at all. This is a bridge that, like a lot of our other roadways, has changed its character over the years and we are now going to be reducing the number of lanes down to one lane in each direction to really make sure that things work well."

Sketches from Gulliver's presentation illustrated how the project will also make room for new dedicated bus lanes on each end of the bridge:

Sketch plans for MassDOT's proposed roadway reconfiguration of the Mass. Ave. Bridge where it enters Cambridge. The new bridge cross-section will feature two bike lanes next to the sidewalks, a northbound bus/right-turn lane, and two general-purpose motor vehicle lanes.
MassDOT's proposed permanent reconfiguration of the Mass. Ave. and Memorial Drive intersection. Courtesy of MassDOT.
Sketch plans for MassDOT's proposed roadway reconfiguration of the Mass. Ave. Bridge where it enters Boston. The bridge itself will feature two curbside bike lanes with wide buffers from car traffic. At the Beacon Street intersection, the bike lanes narrow to make room for two through lanes for motor vehicles, a southbound bus lane, and a dedicated right-turn lane from Mass. Ave. to Beacon Street. The bus lane continues one more block south to Marlborough Street.
MassDOT's proposed permanent reconfiguration of the Mass. Ave. bridge near its intersection with Beacon Street in Boston, as presented at the Oct. 19, 2022 MassDOT board meeting. Courtesy of MassDOT.

Gulliver said that the final implementation will "include both pavement markings and flexposts (for the bike lanes), new signal heads for transit priority, and traffic signal phasing on both sides of the river."

A slide in Gulliver's presentation suggested that implementation of the changes could begin in November.

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