Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bus lanes on East Broadway in Somerville are meant to benefit the busy 101 and 89 MBTA routes. (Photo: Eric Kilby via Flickr)

The section of Broadway in Somerville between McGrath Highway and Minnesota Avenue is one step closer to getting dedicated bus lanes. A meeting of Somerville’s Traffic Commission approved on Thursday a list of 20 separate changes to East Broadway that would make the lanes possible.

The project would expand on the bus and bike lanes created on Broadway between Main Street and McGrath Highway in 2019. The project, which would also consolidate and relocate some bus stops, is meant to “reduce bus delay and improve reliability” for riders, according to the City of Somerville website. The 101 and 89 MBTA bus routes have the second- and third-highest riderships in the city.

“I’m very proud and happy about the due diligence and the hard work the transportation team is doing throughout the city to provide safer streets for our pedestrians and bikers,” said Jill Lathan, the Department of Public Works commissioner. “Our buses are really attending to our most vulnerable populations.”

The eastbound Cross Street stop will be moved to between Autumn Street and Cross Street. The eastbound Franklin and Glen streets stops will be replaced by one stop on the far side of Glen Street. The westbound Indiana and Michigan Avenue bus stops will be replaced by one stop at Illinois Avenue. The stops at MacArthur Street and Kensington Avenue will be eliminated altogether.

A City of Somerville overlay shows affected blocks and shelters along a bus lane project.

Parking within 20 feet of an intersection or corner is prohibited in Somerville, according to Justin Schreiber, a transportation planner who presented the plan to the commission, but new paint and signage will be added to highlight this, clearing corners of parked vehicles for the safety of crosswalk users. Clearing corners will also satisfy state and federal regulation that prohibit parking immediately ahead of crosswalks and intersections.

“It improves visibility and safety for all modes of transportation,” Schreiber said. 

Broadway has a high incidence of vehicle accidents, the city said.

“Painting no-parking areas and restricting parking is one of the quickest ways to make an immediate safety improvement,” according to city literature on the project. “Clear corners also make it easier of firetrucks, delivery trucks, buses and other larger vehicles to turn.”

Only one parking space will be affected by the bus lane’s creation, Schreiber said. Later in an email, he clarified that the bus lane is responsible for removing a space close to McGrath Highway, but that the project in its entirety will remove approximately two spaces. The removal of parking spaces for bus and bike lanes has sparked a firestorm in Cambridge.

Preliminary data from 2019 from the previously outfitted length of Broadway says there is less car traffic and higher bus ridership. Buses also moved faster.