Spring Hill Sewer Separation & Streetscape Design Public Meeting

The City of Somerville will hold a meeting next Monday, Dec 14th to discuss the Spring Hill project which covers parts of Summer St, Central St, School St, and Highland Ave.

What follows is analysis from Somerville Bicycle Safety:

Last Thursday, City staff presented a preview of the design which largely keeps the status quo allocation of space, with car travel and parking prioritized over people on bicycles, pedestrians and transit riders. Please attend the meeting to see the plans for yourself and voice your thoughts.

When: Mon Dec 14 @ 6:30pm

Where: Attend via Zoom

The Spring Hill project is a sewer separation project which will reconstruct certain streets on Spring Hill:

  • Central St from Somerville Ave to Highland Ave

  • School St from Somerville Ave to Highland Ave

  • Summer St from Bow St to Belmont St in phase 1 and Belmont St to Cedar St in phase 2

  • Highland Ave from Greenville St to Central St in phase 1 and Central St to Cutter St in phase 2


The project will likely cost in the tens of millions of dollars due to the project’s size and the cost of the utility work. Since street reconstruction is so expensive it would likely be decades before reconstruction happens again, so the City absolutely has to get this right. Reconstruction allows for a complete reimagining of the street, including things like sidewalk-level protected bike lanes, but it can also include decisions like curb extensions which could make it very difficult to build a protected bike lane in the future.

The City expects to have a final design ready for bidding by June. There has only been one public meeting so far. It seems unwise to rush a project of this size and this area, which includes several important north-south connections through the city as well as Highland Avenue. This project should reflect the priorities of Somerville’s residents.

Some things to consider when viewing the City’s presentation on Monday:

  • How will the project create a connection suitable for all ages and abilities between Gilman Square and Union Square? What about between the Community Path and Somerville Ave?

  • Will any part of the project prevent a protected bike lane from being created in the future?

  • Is a mountable curb lane a good design? Cars frequently park in the “mountable curb” on Beacon Street because it is designed that way.

  • Does the plan reflect the city’s policy goals - those laid out in SomerVision, the Climate Action Plan, Vision Zero and ADA Transition Plan?

  • Does the plan reflect the feedback that residents have voiced in numerous other street redesign processes?

  • Does the plan consider Somerville’s new zoning ordinance, under which no new development will be eligible for on street parking permits?

  • Who needs a parking space, and how will they get priority over people for whom driving is optional? Will ADA parking spaces be created?


Highland Ave is a critical piece of this:

  • Highland Avenue has many destinations such as the high school, the main library and City Hall that people of all ages and abilities should be able to bike to safely. Will the project make Highland Ave a destination for people biking? How will this plan connect businesses on Highland Ave with people who are travelling through their neighborhood?

  • The Community Path is due to be finished at the end of next year and runs parallel to Highland Ave. However, parts of Spring Hill are quite steep and some connecting streets like Lowell St require a person to bike uphill in the vehicle lane. The CHA hospital and the Armory near Lowell St will remain inaccessible for people biking of all ages and abilities unless a protected bike lane is built on Highland Ave.

  • After the proposed squaring off of Davis Square, one could bike from Holland St to Highland Ave with a slight left turn. Protected bike lanes on Highland Ave would fit well with this redesign and with the City’s stated plan to develop a citywide bike network.

  • December 14, 2020 at 6:30pm – 8pm