Building Support for Better Bridges
This blog is cross-posted from the Advocacy Advance blog, and is authored by Christy Kwan. Read the full post here.
Somerville, MA and Marin County, CA may be on opposite sides of the country, but bicycle and pedestrian advocates in both regions gained major successes with engaging their communities to champion for bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in local bridge projects. In both cases, bridges were planned to be removed or repaired as is without public input. With the help from our Rapid Response Grants, advocates from LiveableStreets Alliance and Marin County Bicycle Coalition built the political clout to modify planned bridge projects to redirect funding for bicycling and walking.
Somerville, Massachusetts – LivableStreets Alliance
An elevated section of Massachusetts State Road 28 known as the McGrath/O’Brien Highway cuts right through Somerville – thereby separating neighborhoods and business districts, and created the lack of connection between the two parts of town. In 2010, MassDOT, under the Massachusetts’ Accelerated Bridge Program, sought to spend $11 million to repair the crumbling elevated highway while maintaining its existing design.
Responding to the lack of public input and outreach from MassDOT, LivableStreets Allianceorganized community residents and businesses to advocate for a better bridge design. LivableStreets spearheaded the “Remove McGrath” campaign and regularly met with key stakeholders, city and state agencies, and local residents and businesses to galvanize support and build consensus. To build support, LivableStreets also engaged the local community to not only send postcards to the Secretary of MassDOT and the Mayor of Somerville with personalized stories about their experiences crossing McGrath, but also to attend and speak out at a public meeting with MassDOT and local officials.
Initial bridge revisions from MassDOT included new crosswalks and bike lanes; however, LivableStreets continued to advocate for the ultimate win: to remove the elevated portion of McGrath Highway entirely to ensure safety for everyone, and more importantly, to reconnect the two sides of the community. In March 2013, MassDOT consultants released a new vision for McGrath, which included improved intersections, buffered bicycle lanes, designated areas for buses, improved traffic signals, and closing of ramps and tunnels.