City of Somerville kicks off Highland Avenue Redesign Project with community forum

by Aidan O'Sullivan, 2022

Set to begin work in late 2023 and finish in 2024, the City of Somerville commenced its Highland Avenue redesign project with a public meeting on Wednesday, November 17. There is no concrete blueprint for the project to share as of now. The meeting, held on Zoom and open to all who pre-registered, previewed the motivations and vision for the project.

The meeting also gave the opportunity for community input and suggestions. This is a priority with the redesign, which is collecting parking, business, and visitor data to better inform the project. There is also a public input map on the project website where community members can provide comments and suggestions.

Aging pipes, constructed in the late 1800s - early 1900s and water quality problems were motivators for redesigning Highland. Thus, the city is coordinating the Spring Hill Sewer Separation Project and the Highland Ave Redesign Project to meet water needs as well as streetscape and mobility needs.

Potential benefits of this project include better traffic signals and patterns, better green stormwater infrastructure that will improve infiltration, and sewage, drainage, and water main repairs. It will also add protected bicycle lanes, which will require the limiting of parking to only one side of the street. However, parking will be made more efficient by focusing on rules regarding loading zones and pick up and drop off locations.

Increasing the accessibility of Somerville’s streets and sidewalks for people with mobility issues is also a focal point. All sidewalks will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The redesign hopes to better accommodate people of all mobility levels as well as those using any type of transportation, particularly bikes and buses. In a survey of 82 people done by the project committee, 53 of them got to Highland Ave by walking, biking, or bus. While only four of these were bikers, 11 said they would prefer to bike if it was safer. Somerville welcomes a wide range of transportation methods, and the redesign project wants to improve the viability of these methods on Highland.

Somervision2040, which aims to increase the percentage of commuters without cars in Somerville to 75% by 2040, has guided the green initiative of the redesign process.

The project is headed by Brad Rawson (Somerville’s Director of Transportation & Infrastructure), Justin Schreiber (Transportation Planner - Mobility Division), Kate White (Community Outreach Coordinator - Mobility Division), and Viola Augustin (Transportation Planner/Designer - Mobility Division). The link to information about the redesign and future meetings can be found here.