General Infrastructure

stefal

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Powderhouse Circle in Somerville is undergoing some changes for the better this month/by September. They're quick fixes and by no means perfect, but a lot better than what's there now.

Key takeaways: no more traffic lights, single lane, protected bike lanes, relocated bus stops that meet MBTA standards

  • There will be one clearly marked circulating lane
  • Entry and exit lanes will be narrowed to shorten the distance that pedestrians are crossing a motor vehicle lane
  • Tan painted curb extensions will add more separation between sidewalks and moving traffic
  • Protected bike lanes will be added along the full perimeter of the circle. Bike lanes will also be installed at all entrances and exits, and will connect to any bike lanes that already exist today
  • Bus stops will be lengthened to current MBTA standards, and those that are currently within the functional area of the Circle will be moved to the outer edges. The inbound bus stop at 850 Broadway will be consolidated to provide better overall spacing between stops for Route 89
  • The crosswalks to the island in the center of the Circle will be removed, and pedestrians will be expected to use the crosswalks along the perimeter of the Circle to reach their destination
  • Traffic signals will be turned off and bagged
  • Stop signs at entrances to the Circle will be converted to yield signs, with the exception of College Ave as you approach from Davis Square. That particular approach will remain stop-controlled due the sharp angle required for drivers to look back at eastbound Broadway traffic
  • Right turns will be restricted from Broadway westbound onto Warner St northbound and Broadway eastbound onto College Ave, due to a lack of space for turns at those corners. Vehicles wanting to make those movements will have to circle around the intersection, and there will be traffic signs to indicate this.
  • Space will be provided to allow vehicles to wait for a gap in traffic after yielding at the crosswalk and bike lane
Full story link.

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bigeman312

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Good to see an attempt to move in the right direction here.

Next, it would be nice to see these protected bike lanes extended in both directions on Broadway, rather than the green door zone lanes that are there now.
 

jass

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"The crosswalks to the island in the center of the Circle will be removed, and pedestrians will be expected to use the crosswalks along the perimeter of the Circle to reach their destination"

This is dumb, especially since theres stuff to look at in the middle
 

Charlie_mta

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I'm wondering if pedestrian/bicyclist activated traffic lights should be installed at the crosswalks/bike crossings. Seems with only yield signs in the roundabout, cars will be zipping through.
 

Stlin

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"The crosswalks to the island in the center of the Circle will be removed, and pedestrians will be expected to use the crosswalks along the perimeter of the Circle to reach their destination"

This is dumb, especially since theres stuff to look at in the middle
I don't actually think so, given I still live in the area; those crosswalks are basically the only reason the entire works grinds to a halt bc they're signal protected. Their removal results in minimal increases to walking distances, and is compliant with current best practice which generally are to discourage crossing to/through the island.

Also, there's nothing really to see there. A barrel distance sign everyone ignores and some benches. Relocate that to one of the adjacent parks.
 

RandomWalk

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Some day the funeral home will be replaced. Hopefully with something that doesn’t generate parades of traffic.

I’m also tired of Somerville’s love of painted curb extensions, instead of real curb extensions. If the paint isn’t a signal that there will be real curbs ASAP, then drivers will learn to ignore them.
 

stefal

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Some day the funeral home will be replaced. Hopefully with something that doesn’t generate parades of traffic.

I’m also tired of Somerville’s love of painted curb extensions, instead of real curb extensions. If the paint isn’t a signal that there will be real curbs ASAP, then drivers will learn to ignore them.
I read this as a short-term solution: they're starting on this in ~2 weeks and will be done at some point in September. If you relocate all those curbs and sidewalks to have a proper structured roundabout, that's going to require a significant amount of drainage re-working, likely over the course of a construction season and possibly more. I imagine the painted curbs could actually assist in some of the required disruption if/when they make permanent changes here. If I'm recalling correctly, College Ave is being redone this summer, Broadway between here and Ball Sq station is due for reconstruction either next year or the year after. The Broadway redesign could align with a more comprehensive reconstruction here.
 

fattony

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I'm wondering if pedestrian/bicyclist activated traffic lights should be installed at the crosswalks/bike crossings. Seems with only yield signs in the roundabout, cars will be zipping through.
The existing traffic lights are one of the problems that is being fixed. The lights were always just an afterthought/bandaid for a sloppy, car-centric road design.

With only one narrow lane of traffic to cross at a time, pedestrians will have no trouble crossing in a short time. And the crosswalks are separated from where cars merge into the circle, so drivers only have one thing to focus on at the crosswalk (pedestrians) and one thing at the merge (other cars). This will be 1000x better the current chaos of lights all over the place that are sometimes flashing and sometimes not.

it is very rare that anyone crosses to the middle of the circle. And when they do, it takes ages for the lights to change and traffic to clear. I think it will be faster (or just marginally slower) to walk the long way around with this new design than to wait for lights to cross the center.

I’m a local and traverse this circle in a car, bike, and on foot all the time.
 

HenryAlan

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I don't/haven't spent much time there, so I'm not sure about the change in pedestrian circulation, but the bike set-up looks exactly how I'd want all of our rotaries to be designed.
 
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ceo

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I live a few blocks from here and this rotary is a nasty heinous clusterfuck at rush hour; I generally go to some lengths to avoid driving through it. And it's mostly because of the traffic lights. These changes will be a huge improvement and I hope they make them permanent.
 

jbray

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Like Kelley square before it, thus falls another road junction that was designed for horse and cart then poorly redesigned for cars. I can understand why some here are lamenting the temporary nature of this fix but these changes are painfully needed.

Also heads up to those who may lament a lost park in the center of the roundabout, as someone who walked through Powderhouse for three years straight to get to work, this one isn’t worth it. There are two large parks adjacent to the square, the roundabout is a clusterfuck of cars trying to one up each other at all costs, cars from Broadway south heading north that think they have the right of way over the roundabout (which I’m not sure this solution fixes mind you), cars ignoring or not understanding the red lights inside the roundabout (let alone the ones around it), and other trash. These changes will be good for everyone and create a safer, more fluid system for all users. Easily one of the worst intersections I’ve seen living around the city over the years given how unintuitive it is for drivers from outside the local area.

The only lament I have for the roundabout park is that the person who plays sax there sometimes in the dusk rush will lose that spot. A small price to pay for an obvious fix.
 

Highwayguy

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What's the reason highways in Massachusetts are not made with concrete? Out in the Chicago area, the Dan Ryan Expressway is concrete and they have a similar (even a little bit colder) climate than us.
Another issue in addition to those mentioned is maintenance. Typically, highways are only resurfaced; only the top1-3 inches (out of a foot or more) of asphalt are milled off and replaced. The finished product is essentially good as new and remedies all cracks, potholes, etc… if done at the appropriate time in the pavement's lifecycle. However with PCC, the only way to properly repair any defect, no matter how minor is full depth reconstruction of the entire slab, typically around 60' long, down to gravel. Not only is this obviously way more expensive, but would necessitate daytime lane closures; because

1) can’t run highway traffic over gravel and
2) even if the existing slab could be excavated and a new one placed overnight, concrete typically takes 4-7 DAYS to cure enough to handle traffic, as opposed to HMA which is fully cured* in time for the AM rush.

To avoid this, usually "band aid" repairs are made, which will preserve the structural integrity of the roadway, at the expense of significantly reducing the ride quality.

PCC roads will typically last longer and better handle truck traffic than HMA, so its a trade off between more frequent, easier maintenance and less frequent, giant PITA, basically build a new road maintenance. MassDOT happens to prefer the former since the lifecycle costs still come out about even and its less of a headache.

*HMA doesn't chemically cure like PCC, the asphalt binder just cools. Heat it back up and it becomes mix again. Hence why HMA is the most recycled product on earth.
 

Equilibria

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Another issue in addition to those mentioned is maintenance. Typically, highways are only resurfaced; only the top1-3 inches (out of a foot or more) of asphalt are milled off and replaced. The finished product is essentially good as new and remedies all cracks, potholes, etc… if done at the appropriate time in the pavement's lifecycle. However with PCC, the only way to properly repair any defect, no matter how minor is full depth reconstruction of the entire slab, typically around 60' long, down to gravel. Not only is this obviously way more expensive, but would necessitate daytime lane closures; because

1) can’t run highway traffic over gravel and
2) even if the existing slab could be excavated and a new one placed overnight, concrete typically takes 4-7 DAYS to cure enough to handle traffic, as opposed to HMA which is fully cured* in time for the AM rush.

To avoid this, usually "band aid" repairs are made, which will preserve the structural integrity of the roadway, at the expense of significantly reducing the ride quality.

PCC roads will typically last longer and better handle truck traffic than HMA, so its a trade off between more frequent, easier maintenance and less frequent, giant PITA, basically build a new road maintenance. MassDOT happens to prefer the former since the lifecycle costs still come out about even and its less of a headache.

*HMA doesn't chemically cure like PCC, the asphalt binder just cools. Heat it back up and it becomes mix again. Hence why HMA is the most recycled product on earth.
Having lived in Chicago, I can attest that every single summer is a lane-closure hell because they use concrete.
 

stefal

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Powderhouse Circle in Somerville is undergoing some changes for the better this month/by September. They're quick fixes and by no means perfect, but a lot better than what's there now.

Key takeaways: no more traffic lights, single lane, protected bike lanes, relocated bus stops that meet MBTA standards



Full story link.

View attachment 15349
Overnight, the changes outlined above were implemented. The painted curb extensions aren't there, and the bike lanes aren't painted yet, but I suspect those will be coming in soon. Also, the traffic lights are still active, but the pedestrian crosswalk signs are (and have been) bagged.

In general, after walking through twice, very few people are following the new lines/rules, or even the new prohibited turns. I suspect if/when they put more paint and hopefully physical barriers, the driving will improve. Right now it's not great.
 

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