Pavement Markings, Signage, and Traffic Signal Retiming on Broadway Between Magoun Square and McGrath Highway

Central Broadway bus street view

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Updated 6/4/19

Based on stakeholder feedback, the design of Broadway has been modified between Temple St and Main St in the westbound (or uphill) direction. The bus and bike lanes will be separated due to safety concerns regarding the difference in speed between buses and bikes when climbing Winter Hill. This will require converting the parking lane along that section to non-automobile uses. You can view the latest plan set and parking map under the resources tab to see where changes will be taking place.

Many residents of Somerville use Broadway as part of their daily travels. It’s the widest city-owned street, and only Washington Street carries more traffic. It’s often considered the heart of the Winter Hill neighborhood and boasts a number of local restaurants, food marts, churches, and civic uses. Yet, despite this resume, many members of the community feel as though Broadway could do an even better job of serving Somerville’s diverse set of needs, a sentiment that is formalized in the Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan.

The expectation of a better Broadway is the impetus behind launching Winter Hill in Motion – a small to medium scale effort to make improvements on Broadway between Magoun Square and McGrath Highway with paint, signage, and changes to traffic signal timing. The process began by sending out a survey that prompted over 1,000 responses from residents. The results of the survey indicated that while the current conditions on Broadway serve drivers fairly well, facilities for bus riders, bicyclists, and even pedestrians are considered by many to be subpar. This is supported by bus run time data from the MBTA that shows significant congestion for buses between School St and McGrath Highway during commuting hours.

Knowing that the community was asking for a more multi-modal corridor, which is also supported by the recently released Somerville Climate Forward Action Plan, City staff began the process of designing paint-based treatments that would improve conditions for buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians (without too much of an impact on traffic). This began by documenting things like curbside use and traffic signal timing, followed by the development of several plans with a variety of features and alternatives. One design has come out as the leader in creating new dedicated bus and bike facilities without creating unnecessarily complex conditions or requiring the removal of more than a handful of parking spaces. An overview of this plan will be shown and discussed at a public meeting on February 4th, at which time members of the community will have an opportunity to ask questions or provide feedback on the design. If you cannot attend the meeting, you may also contact Adam Polinski at [email protected] with comments or questions. Sign up for project updates to get the latest information as implementation gets underway this spring.

What are the major elements of this project?

This project will include new pavement markings, signage, and traffic signal retiming on Broadway between Magoun Square and McGrath Highway. From Magoun Square to Main Street, the new cross section will feature an uphill parking-protected bike lane and a downhill standard bike lane with parking against the curb. Between Main Street and McGrath Highway, parking will remain against the curb and there will be two travel lanes in each direction – one for motor vehicles and one for buses and bikes.

What’s the deal with the traffic signals?

The traffic signals on Broadway at Main St, School St, and Temple St are aging, poorly timed, and uncoordinated. As part of this project, these signals will undergo standard maintenance and receive timing adjustments to better match the current traffic demand. They will also be coordinated so that when drivers traveling along Broadway get a green light at Main St, they will also get a green light as they approach School St and Temple St. The same progression will take place in the westbound direction from Temple to Main. Staff is investigating the possibility of moving to concurrent pedestrian phasing as well, which has recently been implemented in Davis Square and is explained in more detail here.

Is on-street parking being removed?

The majority of on-street parking will be retained, but some blocks will see a change in parking conditions. For the most recent map of locations where it is expected that parking will need to be removed, click here.

Is the street getting repaved or are the sidewalks getting redone as part of this project?

No. Street resurfacing and sidewalk reconstruction are only done on a handful of Somerville roadways each year, and Broadway is not on the 2019 list. The only exception to this is that a separate MBTA bus stop improvements project will include reconstruction of short segments of sidewalk at 3 bus stops in the vicinity of School St and Temple St.

Are any crosswalks being added?

New crosswalks can only be painted when curb ramps are built into the sidewalks on either side. Since this project does not include sidewalk reconstruction, curb ramps cannot be installed and therefore the ability to install new crosswalks is very limited. The current plan does intend to use existing curb ramps to paint a new crosswalk at the intersection of Broadway and Fenwick St/Thurston St.

Which bus stops are being consolidated?

In the eastbound direction (toward Sullivan), the stop opposite Temple St (#2705) is being removed. Passengers will be asked to use the stop at Marshall St or the stop at Thurston St instead. In the westbound direction (toward Magoun), the stop at Langmaid Ave (#2726) and the stop at Fenwick St (#2727) will be combined into a stop just east of Winter Hill Circle. 

Why not put the combined bus/bike lane against the curb?

Best practice in street design includes creating parking-protected bike lanes if possible, where the bike lane is against the curb and vehicles can park between the bike lane and the travel lane. See Washington Street between McGrath Highway and Somerville Ave for an example of a parking-protected bike lane. This same design principle cannot be used when buses are also permitted in the curbside lane because it puts parked cars between two active motor vehicle lanes, which is not an acceptable practice without constructing a concrete island between the parking lane and the curbside bus lane. Therefore, this design will feature a travel lane closest to the median, a bus/bike lane next to the travel lane, and parking against the curb for each direction of travel.

How will this project impact my commute?

For pedestrians, this will mean less time waiting for the walk signal if you’re crossing at Main St, School St, or Temple St. For bus riders, you could see time savings of up to 5 minutes and more buses coming on time. As a bicyclist, you will have dedicated lanes west of Main St and are free to use the bus lanes east of Main St. Drivers will have more predictable lane markings, better signage, and fewer points where two lanes merge into one and create an unfavorable condition.

Will there be enforcement of the bus and bike only lanes?

Yes. Given that a bus lane is still a new treatment in Somerville, police officers and parking control officers will be monitoring conditions during the rollout of the new facilities to ensure that street users are complying with the new regulations.

Will the City let me know when the project is happening?

Yes, we encourage anyone that’s interested in getting the latest news on project implementation to sign up for email updates.