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Street Design

City of Newton Plans Protected Bike Lanes, Road Diet For Washington Street

2:25 PM EST on December 15, 2023

A rendering of a street with three moving vehicle lanes in the middle, a parking lane on the left curb, and a two-way bike path along the right curb. In the middle distance is a crosswalk and a white-and-yellow MBTA bus is approaching in the opposite lane.

A rendering of “concept 3,” which would create a two-way physically-protected bike path along the southern curb, for Newton’s Washington Street. Courtesy of the City of Newton.

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The City of Newton is soliciting feedback for the design of new protected bike lanes and other traffic-calming safety improvements along a 0.75-mile stretch of Washington Street between West Newton and Newtonville.

Washington Street is currently a four-lane roadway that runs alongside the Worcester Line regional rail tracks and the Massachusetts Turnpike. Long stretches of Washington Street lack sidewalks along its southern curb, where there is a well-worn track in the dirt between the street and the railroad embankment.

A locator map of the Washington Street Pilot project. A red horizontal line in the middle of the map indicates the project location, on Washington Street between Chestnut St. in West Newton and Lowell Ave. in Newtonville. In the upper right a purple box notes the location of "MBTA Newtonville Commuter Rail Station," a few blocks east of Lowell Ave. On the left edge of the map another purple box indicates the location of "MBTA West Newton Commuter Rail Station." In the lower right a black box indicates the location of "Newton North High School" between Walnut Street and Lowell Ave. A wider white line parallel to and just underneath the red line labelled Washington Street represents Interstate 90.
A map of the proposed road diet and safety improvement project on Washington Street in Newton. Courtesy of the City of Newton.

During the pandemic, the city briefly implemented a single paint-only bike lane that replaced on-street parking on the southern (westbound) side of the street.

That configuration, which removed on-street parking to preserve four driving lanes, and thus did almost nothing to constrain reckless driving, proved to be unpopular.

When we reported on that bike lane's removal in October 2020, Newton City Councilor and former Bike Newton president Alicia Bowman told StreetsblogMASS "we could do something much better."

For the current project, the city aims to create "a more safe, attractive, friendly and welcoming environment for all who use this stretch of roadway, including improved pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure for increased safety," according to a project webpage.

The city's project team has drafted four alternatives, all of which would create physically-protected bike lanes and reduce the number of car lanes along the corridor, from 4 to 3 (one lane in each direction plus a center left-turning lane).

One concept would place one-way bike lanes on both sides of the roadway, between on-street parking lanes and the sidewalks, while concepts 2-4 would create a two-way protected bike path on one side of the street.

A grid of four renderings of the same street show four different configurations for a proposed new bike lane. In the upper left labeled "Concept 1: One-Way Separated Bike lanes" is a street with two car lanes and a center turning lane in the middle, two on-street parking lanes, and two one-way protected bike lanes along the curb. In the upper left labelled "Concept 2: North Side Two-Way Separated Bike Lane" is a street with with two car lanes and a center turning lane in the middle, and a wider two-way protected bike lanes along the left curb and on-street parking on the right curb. In the lower left labelled "Concept 3: South Side Two-Way Shared-Use Path" is a street street with two car lanes and a center turning lane in the middle, and a wider two-way protected bike lane along the right curb and on-street parking on the left curb. In the lower right, labelled "Concept 4: Boulevard with two-way shared use path" is a street with two car lanes and a center turning lane in the middle, plus a median island with trees in the foreground before the center-turn lane begins, and a wider two-way protected bike lane along the right curb and on-street parking on the left curb.
Renderings of the four concepts under consideration for an upcoming street safety improvement project on Washington Street in Newton. Courtesy of the City of Newton.

A public survey on four design concepts will be open until December 17th.

The city plans to pick one of these concepts to begin more advanced design work in early 2024, and plans to begin construction in 2025. The project is being billed as a "pilot," and the city intends to use lower-cost materials like planters, paint, and pre-cast concrete curbs to create the new bike lanes and add traffic-calming measures at new crosswalks.


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