Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets (SASS)
May 19, 2021
Johnathan Gulliver, Highway Administrator
Jamey Tesler, Acting Secretary
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160, Boston, MA
Dear Administrator Gulliver and Secretary Tesler,
Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets (SASS) is a coalition of hundreds of Somerville residents who demand safe streets and equitable infrastructure. Our group reflects Somerville’s diversity. We are pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and transit users. We are parents of young children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Our recent call to action garnered more than 600 signatures, and the Mayor and the City Council have already responded by adding staff and accelerating project timelines. We hope that MassDOT will respond with similar urgency.
We are writing today to demand that you address the critical safety and accessibility deficiencies along Mystic Ave and McGrath Highway. These MassDOT-controlled roadways are the most dangerous and inequitable infrastructure in our city. Three pedestrians have been killed here in hit and run crashes by motorists in the past two years, the most recent of which was last month. This violence falls disproportionately on Somerville’s lower-income, Black and brown communities. Some of our most vulnerable residents have no choice but to traverse these roadways to get between home, food, work, and school.
We are frustrated by the lack of progress on fixing this long-standing highway injustice, and we urge you to make the following immediate improvements before more lives are lost. These improvements are necessary for safety now and will become even more important as the Route 93 viaduct project begins to reroute even more traffic through this area in 2022:
- Install Blakeley Ave crosswalk, traffic signal, and pedestrian refuge island this year, instead of waiting for the larger McGrath improvement project.
- Install ADA-compliant curb cuts and ramps at all crosswalks this spring or summer, with temporary asphalt curb ramps if more permanent construction needs to wait.
- Increase the walk phase and include countdown signals for all crosswalks at Broadway & McGrath and at Shore Drive & Mystic Ave.
- Construct raised crosswalks and speed humps at both entrances to the Kensington underpass.
- Complete pedestrian improvements at Shore Drive & Mystic Ave.
- Enact traffic calming measures such as rumble strips and speed humps to reduce illegal speeding on the on/off ramps of Route 93 and on Route 28/38.
- Decrease cut-through traffic on Mystic Ave by preventing left turns from the Exit 29 ramp of Route 93.
We acknowledge that MassDOT is already planning several improvements to this area, and while we welcome those plans we ask that you accelerate and enhance them. Specifically:
- Accelerate the Route 38 / Route 28 road improvement project from summer of 2023 to what was originally promised, summer of 2022.
- Extend the planned road diet to narrow McGrath north beyond Broadway to Mystic Ave by extending bicycle facilities and by building a signalized crosswalk and pedestrian refuge island at Blakeley Ave.
- Add sidewalk on Mystic Ave along Foss Park that extends to the east side of McGrath Highway to provide safer pedestrian access to Stop and Shop and East Somerville.
In addition to the ever-present threat of traffic violence, the whole Route 93 corridor through Somerville imposes major health impacts on residents living in abutting neighborhoods. (These potential adverse health impacts were known back in 1970 when construction of 93 began.) We urge MassDOT to finally mitigate the noise pollution and deadly ultrafine particulate pollution by protecting these neighborhoods with sound barriers and other types of mitigation along Route 93 on the same timeline as the viaduct project.
Finally, we ask that you increase communication with our city government and residents, the latter of whom are often not included in the decisions affecting their lives:
- Designate two individuals at MassDOT with direct access to decision makers to serve as dedicated points-of-contact for local residents and city leaders to address questions and concerns about these projects.
- Meet with SASS to discuss the timing and scope of the full set of proposed projects for McGrath Highway, Mystic Avenue, and Route 93.
At a time when our state and nation are struggling to address the dual crises of systemic racial inequality and climate change, it is unacceptable to invest in outdated designs that treat residents and pedestrians as second-class citizens while dumping traffic, noise, and air pollution onto neighborhoods that have been historically ignored.
We invite you to join us and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, State Rep. Christine Barber, State Rep. Mike Connolly, State Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven, Mayor Joe Curtatone, City Councillors Matt McLaughlin and Jesse Clingan, and local residents for a highway justice rally on May 26 at 6pm at McGrath and Broadway.
Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets Steering Committee
Ken Carlson, Beacon St, Ward 2
Bonnie Denis, Maxwell’s Green, Ward 5
Chris Dwan, Ivaloo St, Ward 2
Stephanie Galaitsi, Morrison Ave, Ward 5
Joan Liu, Florence St, Ward 1
Wilfred Mbah, Woods Ave, Councilor at Large
Karen Molloy, Highland Ave, Ward 5
Mark Niedergang, Conwell Street, Ward 5 City Councilor
Arah Schuur, Walker St, Ward 6
Emily Vides, Mystic Ave, Ward 4
Susann Wilkinson, Orchard St, Ward 6
Larry Yu, Herbert St., Ward 6
The original Google document version this letter is here.