Cambridgeport Update: BU Bridge and Safety
Last week, I attended the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association meeting, where MassDOT gave us an update on the state of the BU Bridge and how we should address traffic issues moving forward. For those who could not attend, Joe Barr from Cambridge, Jeff Parenti from DCR, and Neil Boudreau from MassDOT came and provided updates.
This is the third meeting regarding traffic issues related to the BU bridge that arose shortly after changes completed on that bridge as well as on Granite Street. The streets impacted are under the jurisdictions of the three entities. Granite Street and Brookline Street are under the jurisdiction of Cambridge, the circle and Memorial Drive are DCR’s, and the BU Bridge is MassDOT’s responsibility. Once you arrive at the lights on the bridge at Commonwealth Ave in Boston, it is Boston’s responsibility to operate them. Although no one from Boston came, both Neil Boudreau and I had been in touch with Boston officials, who have been very cooperative to find out what was happening and trying to fix it.
First, for Granite Street, Joe Barr announced that Cambridge was finished experimenting with parking and had decided to permanently remove parking on one side of Granite between Rockingham and Brookline Streets. This will allow two lanes of cars on Granite so that people can make a left on Brookline Street even if those making a right on Brookline are stuck in traffic. There were several suggestions regarding improving signage on Granite, Waverly, and Rockingham Streets. Joe agreed to evaluate the suggestions and make appropriate changes.
Second, Jeff Parenti from DCR spoke about his work. He spoke about long-term and short-term improvements. For the short-term improvements to the circle, he had his initial thoughts, which are in the attached document. He is going to come back to CNA’s next meeting on January 17, 2019 and have a more specific discussion on what people think. DCR will make improvements through adding paint to the circle and signage. The changes can be made as soon as it is warm enough for paint to dry, probably next March. In addition, DCR just hired a consultant to start a public process on infrastructure changes as part of Phase III of the improvements to Memorial Drive. (Phase I was from the Charles River Dam Road to the Longfellow Bridge and Phase II was from the Longfellow Bridge to the BU Boathouse.) He is looking forward to redesigning the circle as part of this project. He said that people should think of the circle as a “blank slate” as they imagine what could be there. If you have comments on the short-term fix, you can email him directly at email@example.com. Below is his initial thoughts on short-term changes that could be made.
Finally, Neil Boudreau from MassDOT spoke about what he had found looking into the lights on Commonwealth Ave. The lights are designed to adjust to minimize traffic. This clearly was not occurring at all. Between the first and second meeting, he said that the problem was that the system was damaged during construction and had only recently become operational. In the last six weeks, Boston and MassDOT worked to make sure the lights were working as designed. It turned out there was a communications issue where the lights were reverted to mid-day settings at rush hour. This meant that there was approximately 15% less green time for those driving from Cambridge to Boston than there should have been. This has been fixed. In addition, the signals were adjusted to add a little more green time for the Cambridge to Boston movement. The combination means that there should be 25% more green time consistently during rush hour than was the case during the worst problem times. That should help. Neil said he was continuing to work with Boston to determine if more improvements could be made. The handout that Neil distributed is below.
This is obviously an issue that remains to be worked out completely, but I’d like to thank everyone involved who helped us come closer to reaching a resolution. I’m always impressed with the activist nature of Cambridgeport and it’s a great joy of my job to work with the neighborhood to fix issues like these. More updates are forthcoming, but I thought that ahead of the holidays, the people of Cambridgeport deserved some peace of mind that this issue is being worked out.