‘Big change’ for bikes, buses comes to Mass. Ave. in Cambridge
A busy stretch of Massachusetts Avenue underwent significant changes this month to make the street safer and more convenient for cyclists traveling between Cambridge and Boston.
At the same time, the roadway reconfigurations will ease congestion for public transportation and improve pedestrian mobility, officials said.
Joseph Barr, Cambridge’s director of traffic, parking, and transportation, said crews finished work on both sides of a half-mile stretch of Mass. Ave., between Memorial Drive and Sidney Street, last week.
The project features new bike lanes that are separated from moving traffic by using both parked cars and plastic flex-posts; a designated “bus-only” lane on one side; traffic pattern and signal changes; and street re-striping, he said.
“Between all of that, it’s become a multimodal thing,” Barr said, “with improvements for bikes, improvements for pedestrians, and improvements for buses.”
Planning for the “South Mass. Ave Corridor Safety Improvements Project,” which starts around Central Square and extends to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began last winter, Barr said.
From there, a series of community meetings and public hearings were held from spring through the fall. Work finally got underway in October.
Barr said while the project is now 98 percent complete — crews wrapped up the majority of changes just before Thanksgiving — some tweaks still need to be made.
“There are still a few bits and pieces of pavement markings for the bike lane that we weren’t able to get down,” Barr said. “So those will either go in in the next week or two, or we might need to wait until the spring.”
Adjustments to traffic-signal timing are also needed to address any traffic buildup coming from Boston into Cambridge from over the Harvard Bridge.
“I think we will be able to figure that out fairly quickly, to make sure the signals are running correctly,” Barr said.
The alterations are intended to be permanent, but the “bus-only” lane on the Boston-bound side was put down using a less-durable type of paint on purpose, officials say. This way, the city can see how the changes are working — and if they’re not, they can make adjustments as necessary.
“We’re evaluating it,” Barr said. “If it works great, we’ll replace [the bus lane] with something more durable in the spring. But if there are any issues, that gives us the opportunity to make some changes or tweaks without having to rip up something that’s more durable.”
The busy Mass. Ave. corridor is known for being dangerous for some commuters.
In 2016, Cambridge officials adopted a “Vision Zero” plan to work toward eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The city decided to tackle this particular area to make it safer for riders based on crash data.
“It’s a heavy bike route,” Barr said. “We felt like it was an important next corridor to look at in terms of improving safety, particularly for the cyclists.”
Somerville also got some new bike infrastructure recently.
The Somerville Bicycle Committee reported this week that new flex posts were added to Webster Avenue, just outside of Union Square.
Previously, Webster Avenue had painted bike lanes. But overtime, the paint had faded. The posts make the separation between the bike lane and the portion of the road where cars travel more clearly defined. Somerville officials hope to stripe the bike lanes soon.