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MassDOT recommends grounding McGrath

At a public meeting, MassDOT released some opinions on the McGrath Highway.

MassDOT has recommended that the McCarthy Overpass portion of McGrath Highway be grounded and the roadway developed into a Boulevard that reconnects East Somerville, Union Square and Brickbottom.

The recommended plan preserves continuity at Washington Street, while enhancing pedestrian and bicycle connections. The removal of the overpass will allow for wider sidewalks, bicycle paths, added green space that will help spur redevelopment and enhance existing uses along the corridor.

Now, if only we can figure out why there is an extensive McGrath rehab in progress when MassDOT intends to remove it.

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Land is the city is super valuable and McGrath is taking up a lot of unnecessary space. Good to know traffic engineers (and politicians) have learnt from the mistakes of the 50’s-70’s when they cut neighborhoods in half and created depressed economic zones below and around these open wounds.

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Speaking from my own experience, I am looking to move somewhere in the Union Square vicinity but anywhere east of McGrath is not even being considered because it's annoying/dangerous to get across it on a bike or walking. This will open up East Somerville for people without cars who don't want to deal with the hassle.

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Nooo! Rents are already pricy for the shitty apartments between McGrath & Sullivan. Slowly driving everyone out except those who get help from mom & dad....

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Nothing 'nice' is built for normal people, it's only to attract outsiders with deep pockets. No such thing as an affordable neighborhood that is aesthetically pleasing in and around Boston.

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Then call up your local reps and town officials and push them to support more, dense housing development!

Housing is only going to go up as more people demand to live in these areas. Tearing down this eye sore and allowing more development to go into the area will be the only way to allow old housing stock to stay competitive.

otherwise it just gets gentrified as is and prices go up, up, up.

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Somerville is the most densely populated city in the frigging state, it doesn't have anything to do with density. Also, no housing is going to be made in the footprint of the old bridge in any event. If tearing down the overpass spurs residential development nearby though, it will not be geared towards middle and working-class folks. In reality the situation is far more complex than just building more housing.

The most plausible end situation of all this redevelopment, is the furthering of a huge demographic shift that has been going on for the past 20 years. This being that areas around the city center have become home to the wealthy, and people in housing projects, with nothing in-between.

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Traveling through Union Square via Bus, 1987:

Big hair woman: "I'm so sick of these (explitive) Barnies moving in and buying everything up and driving everybody out. Somebody should just kill them all!"

Other Big Hair Woman: "Yeah, somebody should find a way to keep them out. Theyuh ruinin everything"

Pause

"So, how's your ma doin in Floridar?"

First Big Hair Woman: "Oh, she's fine. Got a nice big place. Got a lot of money for the house ..."

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if you owned your house, and wanted to leave, it was perfect!

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I just remember the exchange for the extreme blindness of 1)advocating violence against newcomers while 2) discussing how your parents (who probably inherited the place from grandma) made big bucks selling out to newcomers rather than passing it along to the next generation.

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It looks like they still want to replace it with a 6 lane road, which is unnecessarily wide, even if you accept the ridiculously overblown models of the traffic engineers.

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That's really about right. This is a major arterial, not a country road.

Taking down the overpass will reduce it to six lanes, actually. Four lanes isnt going to cut it any way I can think of - not with surface lanes for turning.

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That doesn't preclude turning lanes. Look at Brighton Ave, Comm Ave closer to Kenmore, or parts of Mass Ave. That puts 5 lanes to walk across at intersections. Not wonderful places, but workable.

Their current design appears to be 6 lanes + turning lanes which means 7 lanes to cross at intersections. I don't see how that helps. Someone suggested turning the outermost lanes into parking lanes (so that would make it like Brighton Ave). Maybe that will be the compromise.

But I have reservations. A widened road is a mistake that will scar the area for decades or even centuries, possibly permanently stunt development, and lead to further deaths in accidents. Why not try to avoid all that from the start?

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With an overpass, traffic flow in one direction doesn't need to stop and give the other direction a turn to cross. So, with about 50% utilization in each direction instead of 100%, more capacity is needed to cross intersections when their half of the time happens. When they have a red light, traffic queues up in the 3 lanes to cross, even though 2 lanes satisfy a constant flow rate. Hence, more lanes are needed than if it were an overpass.

An overpass isn't really a problem for pedestrians and cyclists to cross under. The problem is the road configuration under the bridge which makes navigation difficult for all modes! The overpass itself makes everything easier, well, except for pedestrians or cyclists who might want to use the overpass.

State law prohibits sale of land used as part of a state highway.

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no thanks

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Mass Ave in the Back Bay carries the same amount of traffic as McGrath and traffic volumes along McGrath have been going down since 2004.

It's a major route but it doesn't need to be designed like an urban highway.

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As I don't go up there too much, but isn't there a surface rd. that runs under the McGrath Highway already? The one that turns into Medford St and turns into Main St in Medford?

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Yes, elevated route can be duplicated entirely on surface roads at present. The only time you *have* to go elevated to to cross the Fitchburg Line tracks (and future GLX to Union Square).

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It's not at all clear to me what (or how) the overpass helps traffic. Seems like a surface road could provide the same capacity, especially if they rationalize all of the weird sort-of rotaries that are underneath it into normal intersections.

Odds are this will be screwed up somehow, with six-cycle traffic lights that are poorly timed for drivers and exclusive pedestrian phases that don't give pedestrians the walk light across certain directions, even when it's perfectly safe to cross. But that's a separate discussion...

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If you wanted to get from Cambridge to Medford, you would take the surface Rd. If you wanted to get from Boston (Sturrow Drive) to Everett, Chelsea or areas in Somverville, you would take the elevated St.

It just seemed to me that there is a decent amount of traffic on both roads. Why put all that traffic on one road? Also, there are some pretty crazy turns/half rotaries/3.5 way intersections as it is. Seems like it would be a difficult project.

I guess I would agree that those roads make for an ugly industrial drive through Somerville into Medford. Taking the road down could make that a nicer area for residents (although not many people live on the right side of the McGrath.)

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"Odds are this will be screwed up somehow, with six-cycle traffic lights that are poorly timed for drivers and exclusive pedestrian phases that don't give pedestrians the walk light across certain directions, even when it's perfectly safe to cross. But that's a separate discussion..."

I agree that the chances of one or all of these predictions coming true are excellent, but still probably worth doing something to improve traffic patterns in that area. The intersection with Washington Street is horrible and confusing and the intersection with Somerville Ave is dangerous with that giant wide-open, unmarked space next to the Burger King. That's classic old-school Massachusetts who-gives-a-fuck traffic "management" that should have been fixed decades ago.

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Anything would be an improvement over what's there right now. That much I agree. That Washington St/McGrath intersection should be nuked and started from scratch. It's awful.

I'm just bowled over by how badly the lights are timed (and how badly the pedestrian signals function) in and around the big dig area, which is all fairly recent design.

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"Anything would be an improvement over what's there right now."

Never underestimate the ability of a government to make something worse.

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Because once you reach three of something ...

The state wants to tear down the Casey Overpass in JP, raise up Rutherford Avenue in Charlestown and now this.

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about how the Casey overpass issue compares to the McGrath Hwy. overpass. Need to read up on both these proposed plans. Of course, Casey overpass is at a major T hub and the traffic implications are big.

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This has the potential to be as vibrant and beautiful as Melnea Cass Boulevard! What are we waiting for?

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Anything, even the wrong thing, that can be done to change this fun intersection under the McGrath is an improvement.
http://goo.gl/maps/BHzef
If you're coming from left to right on Washington [on the overhead view[ you go straight to turn left and turn right to go straight.

Plus before it even becomes the McGrath, as the Monsignor O'Brien, the highway nature of the road leads to a lot of urban blight.
http://goo.gl/maps/IfSzy
Turn it into a nice, normal speed boulevard with some grass and trees between the two sides of the road and you will see those ugly buildings be replaced shortly thereafter.

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This is the part I was referring to earlier, much more dangerous than the Washington Street intersection, IMO:

http://goo.gl/maps/ZrCf0

Look at how northbound traffic on Medford Street has to cross over that gigantic swath of unmarked asphalt from the south before crossing under the highway, dodging traffic from two directions (southbound access road and Somerville Ave), including MBTA buses (from both directions, if I'm not mistaken). Seriously, WTF?

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You will notice at the intersection you indicated that there is a conveniently placed set of businesses dealing in auto repairs, auto glass repairs, auto towing, and auto sales. Thus ensuring that when your car gets smashed up at the intersection that help is just a step away.

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When northbound traffic from Medford Street has a green light, the other streets have red lights. So they don't have to dodge other streams of traffic.

I'd agree that the intersection is scary for pedestrians, and really ugly, and confusing.

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Changes are coming soon to that intersection! From a March 8 e-mail blast from LivableStreets:

McGrath to become more livable!

You voiced your opinion and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) listened.

Thanks to your support over the past three years, we could see much needed improvements to the McGrath corridor from Somerville Ave to Washington Street around the McCarthy Overpass by next summer.

Now, as part of the State's repair project, MassDOT is planning to make additional surface improvements for people to make it safer and easier to walk, bike, take the bus, and drive, when originally the only plan was to repair the structure.

LivableStreets urged the State to reconsider how they are investing money in this project. Taking our feedback, the State hired consultants to analyze the possibilities. Last week, data and conceptual drawings were presented to LivableStreets and other stakeholders. The drawings showed new and improved intersections, buffered bicycle lanes, designated areas for buses, improved traffic signals, and the closing of ramps and tunnels.

With the addition of a new intersection and improved crossings, you would be able to walk and bike along McGrath and get from one side of McGrath to the other safely and more easily, unlike today.

The new ideas presented are because you wrote letters, volunteered, signed postcards, and attended meetings and spoke up. Now we are closer to seeing these much needed improvements.

Thank you Massachusetts Department of Transportation and City of Somerville!

We are also now one step closer to realizing the ultimate vision of taking down the outdated overpass to make our communities more connected and livable, and pave the way for more businesses and jobs.

The work is not complete though... We must continue to weigh in on the plans and there will be public meetings this spring.

Together, we can make these changes happen! Join LivableStreets today. By becoming a member or donating now, you will contribute to helping make these changes actually happen.

Thank you,

Jackie Douglas, Executive Director

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At one time , I93 South ended at Mystic ave Medford, I think there is a ramp there now. There was a Howdy or Kemp hamburger shack there. Then you had to continue south on a winding Rutherford ave through C town , over little bridge to North station to the Xway, or you could hook a right onto Mcgrath and go that way through E Cambridge / Lechmere. That would have been the time to re-do this,it would have been cheaper and part of the clusterflux at the time. Now , too much $$$$, and incovenience for the impatient.Plus every business in Middlesex county would seek mitagation for loss of business.

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So that means we should never change it ever? Sorry we didn't do it forty years ago or whatever you're talking about, but if it still sucks in 2013, why shouldn't it be fixed?

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Fixed , if it needs steel and hot top , yes. Re-invented and Greenway style ooo laa laa , sorry , not on my dime. I lived with worse, and there are things that need far more attention than that. Where is all this money going to come from? There is no such thing as a free lunch.

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Sorry if getting rid of that piece of shit is too "oo la la" for you. That level of world-class "logic" is exactly why we have so many shitty roads in this town.

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Your "steel and hot top" isn't sufficient, the engineers have determined that it is too deteriorated to be repaired. It has to be rebuilt completely. And that would cost at least ten times more than boulevarding.

As you say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. And there is no such thing as a free overpass.

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I'm in the minority here, but I use this intersection almost daily and it already blows. I cannot wait to see what its going to be like after the McGrath overpass is taken down. Traffic already backs up on all the ramps (i.e. Somerville Ave, ramp from Washington Street to 28 N).. its just going to be a nightmare when it's done.

Plus, I'm curious to know how the state is going to manage the overpass that goes over the commuter rail.. It's going to be a very steep incline.

There goes my easy drive from Chelsea to work (Inman).. I use this route via Sullivan to bypass the parking lot known as the Gilmore Bridge in the morning.

The whole point of the overpass is to take N/S 28 traffic and bypass 3-4 lights. (it already backs up onto the overpass when the light at highland ave is red) Without it, traffic is just going to back up even more.

PS - If the state is going to do this, then WHY are they wasting money fixing something that is going to be torn down in a couple of years... wasteful spending.

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Have you thought that if they don't fix it it's going to fall apart and kill somebody? That thing cannot be gone soon enough. It's a blight on the area, and I feel gross driving over it whenever I have to.

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But if its gonna come down in 2 years.. kinda a waste of money.

The ONLY reason why that is being done now is because of the "Stem To Stern" review of bridges that was done after the I-40E collapse a couple of years ago.

I'm no SE but I think it would have lasted a few more years without any work being done. Plus it looks like they aren't replacing any steel beams and are just fixing up the sides, fixing guard rails, and repaving.

If its in that bad of shape, Just close it. Force all the traffic off the first exit and be done. Tearing it down and starting construction on this could start very soon (the state has a way of finding $ for projects when its in dire need.. aka the rain day fund)

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But the fixes that they're doing now are because it's signed as a truck route, and the weight limit would have been reduced if they didn't do the repairs.

It was a stupid decision when we have a perfectly good truck route (I-93 less than a mile away in an exact parallel track. Waste of money to repair what's going to be torn down for the convenience of a few trucks.

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How are trucks supposed to get from 93 to Cambridge and Somerville? 28 is the only reasonable route.

All the transit and bike lanes in the world won't help stuff get delivered to the city. (Never mind that the overpass removal project doesn't include more frequent bus schedules or new routes, and will make traffic slower for buses on existing routes.)

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Yeah and I totally agree with the last statement.

I not only drive, but I also take the T to work (and often take the 91 or CT1 to Sullivan) and I just cannot imagine the additional headways trying to make it thru that Washington/28 intersection are going to be like. It already is backed up from Sullivan Square in the afternoon.

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Q:

Why do some people have a morbid terror of anything 'elevated'? Are these the same folks who can't deal with tall buildings, anything over say 10 stories?

Request:

PLEASE stop using that obnoxious phrase 'green-space'. It's called a PARK. And while we're at it, we don't need anymore tiny, disconnected 'green-spaces' that end up unused, neglected, and blighted. Well designed decent sized parks I understand and appreciate.

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To answer your questions:

1) Because they're ugly and they kill neighborhoods by isolating them and/or creating huge dead spaces occupied by nothing but moving vehicles.

2) No.

Hope this helps.

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Depressed highways like the Cross Bronx don't blot out sunlight but they're not much better than elevated highways.

Elevated transit structures aren't much better in terms of their effects on neighborhoods. There's a reason the Orange Line Elevated was torn down--they were ugly and noisy. Ditto the Third Avenue El in Manhattan. Unfortunately both of those were torn down with the promise of replacement subway service during a period of declining tax revenues and disinvestment in urban areas, so the promised replacement service never materialized.

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Elevated Cross Bronx: http://goo.gl/maps/SQKZL

Trench Cross Bronx: http://goo.gl/maps/3N1U1

I prefer the trench.

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The new Orange Line is less than a MILE from the old one. Yet people act as if it were 10 miles away.

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That's an extra mile to walk to take transit. That standard for 5-10 min walk is, I believe, a quarter mile. And the standard "maximum" people are willing to walk to transit is half a mile.

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But the old Orange Line El went through a more densely populated area than its replacement. In 1987, the South End, Lower Roxbury and Dudley Square areas were promised an "Equal or Better" replacement, however the Silver Line is neither equal nor better, it's normally a shitshow. The 60' buses currently used are simply incapable of handling the normal demand, they tend to bunch causing frequent long delays in service. Not to mention, single door boarding and fareboxes that aren't designed to handle cash fares quickly further exacerbate delays and the overcrowded buses are extremely slow, so much so that it's usually quicker to walk most of the route. If I get to Tufts Medical Center, where I normally board, and the wait for a Silver Line bus is estimated to be more than three minutes, I walk and I always beat the bus to my stop at Union Park.

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Elevated highways are very wide and create an awful space underneath. They're typically neglected spaces which are used for storage, and are not cleaned or maintained at the very least. A stunning example of change is the area under the Zakim, however, this is not comparable. For one, the bridge is high enough that plenty of light is able to get underneath. Second, it is very spacious and is incorporated into adjacent parks (and at a hefty cost, too, I'm sure).

But most "elevated" structures are not actually elevated enough to be "beautiful" places and put a blight on the area. They can be stomping grounds for crime and "undesirables".

The green space thing I agree whole heartedly with. Most green space brings down density, and is utterly useless and unnecessary. The unused land post-McGrath removal should be sold off unless a particular parcel is large enough to make a new park of actual use.

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There are successful parks and less successful ones but this is hardly a new phenomenon. What's a recent example you can think of? Just curious because I can't.

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