Alewife updates — bicycle and pedestrian improvements

The bikepath connection from Brighton Street in Belmont down through Alewife to Somerville has been delayed repeatedly but looks like it is on track to go out to bid in this federal fiscal year, that is, before October 1. [Note on July 29: see update below —¬†the project¬†is out to bid.] It is funded on the 2009 Transportation Improvement Plan and Mass Highway projects a construction start this fall.

While repeated slippage of the schedule on this project makes me uncomfortable, I have been assured recently and repeatedly by senior management in Mass Highway (up to the Commissioner level), that the project will go to bid by October and hopefully sooner.

Suddenly near term as a result of stimulus funding, DCR will also be building the bikepath along the Alewife Brook from the Mystic River. This project is not quite as far along in the design process as the other bikepath, but if it is to receive stimulus funding, it needs to be advertised by January or February. Apparently DCR and MassHighway believe that is possible. The project status form projects construction in Fall or Winter.

A recent study by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council reviewed other options for improving bicycle and pedestrian access in the Alewife area. Given that the potential for road congestion reduction is limited, it makes sense to focus on offering local residents alternatives. The study, which is responsive to a request for planning in the area that I made in 2007, does not seem to be available online, but it is a careful inventory of the possibilities around the Alewife station.

Ideas suggested include:

  • completing the two bikepath projects above
  • assuring bike/ped accomodations in the Mass. Ave reconstruction in Arlington
  • a variety of pedestrian path improvements around Alewife
  • extension of the Minuteman bikepath from Alewife towards Porter Square;
  • extension of the Minuteman bikepath from Alewife towards Watertown
  • creation of a connection over Little River from Fresh Pond to Spy Pond.

The bikepath extensions are very long term options, but they would have the largest impact on Alewife access and also on through bike commuting from the western suburbs into Cambridge and Boston. The City of Cambridge has done a lovely job mapping an on-road route from Alewife through to Harvard Square, but it would make a big difference to have off-road options. The Porter Square extension would also benefit the buildings along Rindge Avenue by bringing more lawful traffic down in to the area near the railroad tracks, which is a trouble spot for kids hanging out.

Once we get the two present projects out to bid, it will make sense to push hard on to develop the more ambitious recommendations in this report.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

3 replies on “Alewife updates — bicycle and pedestrian improvements”

  1. I’ve noted a significant increase in cyclists since improvements to bikepaths have begun.

    I’m not sure where the Brighton Street path route is, but some years ago I discovered the remains of an old bikepath linking the Alewife T station to Belmont Center along an abandoned rail r.o.w.
    It was difficult to follow in parts from neglect, and ended up blocked by a church’s chain link fence just short of the center.

    It seemed to me a natural for heavy useage, as it would connect Belmont commuters to the MBTA red line, as well as Fresh Pond shopping centers and Acorn Industrial Park. It would also connect Cambridge (and Medford, and Somerville, and Arlington) residents to Belmont Center shopping, a bonus for Belmont businesses. I don’t know the status of that old right of way, but it holds great potential.

    1. Yes, this is exactly the path that is referred to in the first paragraphs above. It will end at Brighton Street. There is some discussion of a separate project connecting to Belmont Center, but there is no consensus on that yet.

  2. Update! On July 18, the bikepath project connecting Belmont through Alewife to Somerville went out to bid. Bids will be opened in mid-September with construction likely to get moving in November, subject to weather and coordination with Cambridge’s CSO project.

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