June 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 3:00pm


  • Traffic in Porter Square

Traffic in Porter Square Joseph Barr, Director of the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation department, discussed a preliminary proposal to make safety and operational improvements for all users in Porter Square, including pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and bus riders. He presented a preliminary transportation study that looked at the timing of the traffic signals at Porter Square, including Upland Road/Mass Ave and White Street/Somerville Ave, as well as the main intersection. The key idea is to replace the dedicated left turn lane through the plaza and allow left turns from Somerville Avenue onto Massachusetts Avenue.

Possible advantages:

  • Improving safety for all users
  • Simplifying the traffic light timing (less time wasted between phase changes) to reduce delay for all users
  • Eliminating the confusion about the shared left/through lane on Mass Ave heading towards Harvard Square
  • Reclaiming the current left turn lane for the plaza
  • Eliminating the temptation to cut through the shopping center parking lot
  • Reducing cut-throughs using Oxford and Roseland Streets

We had numerous questions including:

  • The route behind CVS is sometimes blocked by delivery trucks. Could it handle the volume?
  • Similarly, could White Street and the short stretch of Somerville Avenue handle the volume?
  • Can the Massachusetts/Somerville Avenue intersection be redesigned to handle left turns safely?
  • What happens to the no longer used left turn lane through the plaza?
  • Who would be responsible for removing the left turn lane and making the plaza a united whole?
  • What about impact on Upland Road, which is already a serious problem area?
  • For that matter, what about neighboring streets (Beech, Oxford, Roseland, etc)?
  • Has this idea been brought up with the Pedestrian and Bicycle committees? (not yet)

The general reaction was one of interest but many concerns about the technical issues. We appreciate being involved early in the planning and recommend that a strong community process be created, and that planning and modeling should take a much more comprehensive view of the entire Porter Square area.