Friday, June 21, 2024

A state McGrath Highway Resurfacing plan intends to make room for autos, bicyclists and pedestrians. (Image: state Department of Transportation)

The Department of Transportation plans a major revamp of McGrath Highway that will put it on a “road diet” and see the installation of bike lanes. While the proposed design incorporates many improvements for sharing various kinds of traffic, a group of state legislators led by Rep. Mike Connolly is calling on MassDOT to tweak the design to make it even safer for cyclists.

McGrath Highway was last repaved in 2009, and is due for routine maintenance, the legislators say. The state is taking the opportunity to eliminate two vehicle lanes; add a bike lane in each direction; and make streetscape improvements for pedestrians.

The design comes after a study that found McGrath Highway has a 99 percent or higher potential to support “everyday biking,” a term MassDOT uses to encompass bicycle travel that includes going to work, visiting friends and family, shopping and other non-recreational activities. This high rating suggests a latent demand for bike lanes in the area.

Installing bike lanes could reduce the number of cars on roads, in line with 2008 goals of reducing state greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. In a Wednesday letter, the group of legislators noted that the design also helps undo the historical injustice of installing McGrath Highway, called “a scar on the Somerville landscape, bifurcating the city of Somerville and walling off traditionally immigrant and working-class neighborhoods.”

The legislators include state Sens. Pat Jehlen, Sal DiDomenico and Joe Boncore, and state Reps. Christine Barber, Erika Uyterhoeven and Jay Livingstone.

The state agency’s design does a lot to improve the biker experience, but renderings released by the transit agency show, doesn’t put physical barriers between cars and cyclists. The legislators want jersey barriers, concrete blocks or flexible posts, and suggest reducing the proposed speed limit from 35 mph as “too fast for a road that runs through some of the most densely populated neighborhoods” in the state, narrowing an automobile ramp that runs up to McGrath Highway and considering ways to connect the new bike lanes to the Somerville Bike Path.

The state proposal has entered the “25% design process,” which entails public outreach and feedback. While no online form or public event calendar was readily available, the Boston Cyclists Union offer a feedback link here.