If you have felt that congestion on Mount Auburn crossing Fresh Pond Parkway has been especially bad over the past few weeks, you are right. Hopefully, this week, things are better and things will improve a bit further by the end of the month.
We have a long term goal to improve this intersection and will continue to look for any medium term light timing improvements. However, the last few weeks of congestion have been exacerbated by the construction project further down Fresh Pond Parkway towards the Eliot Bridge. NSTAR has been working there for months, but over the past few weeks, they had expanded the footprint of their work site. The expanded footprint was forcing two lanes going inbound towards Eliot Bridge down to one. That was creating a long backup on the parkway between Mount Auburn Street and the bridge. As a result, the usual light-running commuters on Fresh Pond Parkway inbound crossing Mount Auburn were getting trapped in the middle of the intersection and blocking the box. In turn, because of the blocked box, cars and buses on Mount Auburn street were often getting zero usable green time and the queues on Mount Auburn were backing up towards Star Market.
Transit advocate Joe Levendusky and others mentioned the concern to me and we made some observations last Thursday morning. We reported the problems to the Department of Conservation and Recreation who controls the parkway, to the City of Cambridge and to others. We appreciate the prompt response from Commissioner Murray at DCR, Donnie Dailey at MassDOT and Jeff Parenti at the City of Cambridge. We also appreciate the quick response from NSTAR.
NSTAR reconfigured the site over the weekend. There is still a squeeze and a lane shift, but two lanes of traffic can keep moving. and the congestion is, as a result, considerably reduced. Drivers inbound on Fresh Pond Parkway are still running the light but are not getting stuck in the intersection. The traffic queues on Mount Auburn are still running back towards Brattle, but not generally beyond.
NSTAR indicates that their work should be entirely complete shortly — by the end of the month or before, so things will improve a bit further.
We will continue to push for more significant permanent improvements to this intersection — even with the reduced congestion, buses are still taking roughly 7 minutes to get through the light.