Alewife updates — traffic congestion

Slow progress continues in efforts to address traffic issues in the Alewife area, one of the most congested areas in the state. Expectations for improvement should remain low.

In April, the Central Transportation Planning Staff completed the second phase of its analysis of traffic in the area. The observations from the first phase painted a discouraging picture of the challenge of congestion in Alewife — the traffic goes in so many different directions that it is hard to imagine a transit solution that would alleviate a significant share of the congestion.

The second phase of the study verified the traffic analysis in the first phase and studied the bus routing in the area to see if any marginal improvements were possible. Generally, the study found that the bus routing through Arlington and Lexington makes sense and offered only very minor suggestions for change:

  • reducing the number of bus stops to streamline service (a general suggestion);
  • perhaps adjusting the 67 bus route to run more directly through certain neighborhoods (a route segment that would possibly be too hilly and objectionable to some)
  • perhaps coordinating the 67 with LEXPRESS bus in Lexington, although two bus trips are not popular
  • possibly adding a peak period shuttle to Lexington (a suggestion to the town of Lexington to apply for funding)

The study did not give explicit attention to the possibility of bus routing from Belmont. Belmont accounts for only 2.7% of the cars in the Alewife Station garage, while Arlington and Lexington account respectively for 13.1% and 14.4%.

The most actionable recommendations from the study involve streamlining of the Route 2/16 intersection (which would benefit both motorists and bus riders). These recommendations came out of meetings last year. The recommendations can be expected to modestly improve service times at this intersection. Mass Highway’s Project Review Committee has approved the recommendations, which are relatively inexpensive (under $500,000), and is negotiating a design contract. After design, the project will need to be placed on the Transportation Improvement Plan, but it will probably not have to compete with other projects under the regional funding target — it would go through as a safety project. The timeline remains unclear for this process.

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

6 replies on “Alewife updates — traffic congestion”

  1. I continue to have high expectations that one of the most congested traffic areas in the state will recive the concerted, ongoing effort required for improvement. I can’t be the only one frustrated that we address significant problems with two part studies confirming what is already known and offering few constructive solutions. Of course if the problem could be easily fixed, it would be. I look forward to seeing the proposed design changes and support community and transport experts who develop solutions.

    1. For what it’s worth, one of the best experts in the state drives through this mess every day and it’s constantly on his mind! As you say, if there were any easy answers they would be on the table.

  2. Where exactly does this mess include? I did not grow up here so am unfamiliar with the terms. Does it just include the deadly circle that brings one out near the strip mall or does it include that horror of a road that takes us through Somerville and onto route 93? Am I historically correct in believing that mess is due to Tip O’neill’s mother not wanting the continuation of route 2 as a limited access road near her church?

    1. The area that is slated for improvement is the intersection where Route 2 coming in from the West past the old Faces site and the bowling alley meets Route 16.

      My understanding of the history is that strong neighborhood opposition killed the “inner belt” project which would have put a limited access highway through many communities. Route 2 would joined that built at the location of the intersection in question.

      I think it’s probably fortunate that this project was killed — many vibrant residential neighborhoods would have been destroyed. People just won’t live next to a highway voluntarily. They desert homes and blight spread. For a description of how Route 95 killed the Bronx, see The Power Broker the history of Robert Moses’ building activity in New York.

  3. There has been talk of potential service cuts on area buses: 62, 76, 78 and 79. Is this just talk, or need I be concerned? Is there any sign of any potential solution to the MBTA funding situation? Obviously, neither fare increases nor route cuts are going to help congestion any.

    1. Tim, we haven’t gotten specific details of cuts, but we are monitoring the situation carefully as the T struggles to balance its budget. We’ll post on this site if specific news comes of proposed cuts. We understand that starting in August they will have public hearings on the fare increase proposal. They will propose service reductions (not elimination of routes, but reductions during off peak or weekends) that would have to be made if the fare increase does not go through. The buses that the you mention are likely affected. But if the fare increase goes through, there will be no reductions.

Comments are closed.