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MBTA and City of Somerville Announce Bus Lane Improvements on Washington Street

Posted on June 20, 2024

Improvements expand on previous bus mobility work completed in fall 2021 to enhance travel time and reliability for MBTA Routes 86, 91, and CT2, serving 8,000 daily riders. 

Today, the MBTA and the City of Somerville announced bus lane improvements on Washington Street from Myrtle Street to Crescent Street, near the Boston city line. The work builds upon previous bus mobility work completed in fall 2021. The project involves extending bus queue jump lanes, which are short stretches of priority lanes that let MBTA buses bypass waiting traffic with early traffic signals. The project includes installing an eastbound dedicated bus lane from Myrtle Street to Inner Belt Road and a westbound shared bus-bike lane from Crescent Street to Inner Belt Road. Improvements along this corridor serve MBTA Routes 86, 91, and CT2, carrying 8,000 daily riders. Funding for the extension is through the MassDOT Shared Streets and Spaces grant. Installation of the bus queue jump lanes began June 19 with completion anticipated within the following few days (weather depending). The project fulfills a critical need for bus priority improvements identified by the MBTA in the Transit Priority Vision and uses design guidance from the MBTA’s Transit Priority Toolkit.  

“Dedicated bus lanes are a highly effective way to make service more reliable. System reliability is not only a transportation goal, but the highest concern of the public according to our Beyond Mobility outreach,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt. “We are grateful to Somerville for extending bus queue jump lanes with the funding from the Shared Streets and Spaces grant program because faster travel will make a world of difference for our customers.”

“Similar to dedicated bus lanes, bus queue jumps are another cost-efficient way that we can quickly improve travel times for thousands of Route 86, 91, and CT2 bus riders traveling along Washington Street. MBTA buses will now be able to quickly bypass traffic waiting in this corridor,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng. “We continue to be grateful to our MassDOT partners for funding these critical upgrades through the Shared Streets and Spaces grant, our partners at the City of Somerville for collaborating with us on improvements for our bus riders, and our Transit Priority team at the T for their work on improving bus service for all riders.”

“These crucial improvements to the Washington Street bus lane will significantly enhance the daily commute for thousands of our residents. By working with the MBTA and MassDOT to prioritize efficient and reliable bus service, we are taking an important step toward a more connected and sustainable future for Somerville,” said Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “These upgrades not only benefit public transit users, but also support our city’s ongoing commitment to creating safer and more accessible streets for all modes of transportation. I want to thank General Manager Phillip Eng and the MBTA for their work and continued partnership, as well as Secretary Tibbits-Nutt and MassDOT for funding these vital city improvements.”

The extension of the bus queue jump lanes is expected to reduce delays and improve safety for buses merging with traffic. This will provide greater reliability for thousands of riders. The corridor will also enhance bike mobility as it is a well-used bike corridor and connects with Somerville’s network of Shared Streets.

Later this year, Route 86 is scheduled to undergo significant improvements as part of the Bus Network Redesign Phase 1, which is expected to be completed by December 2024. The bus lane improvements will support and accommodate the anticipated increase in bus service in the future.  

The MassDOT Shared Street and Spaces Grant funds quick-build projects to help transit authorities and municipalities quickly implement improvements to public spaces. These include sidewalks, curbs, streets, bus stops, and parking areas to support public health, provide safe mobility, and strengthen commerce. 

The MBTA Transit Priority Group is part of the Better Bus Project, which aims to transform bus service throughout the MBTA system. The group is responsible for designing and implementing transit priority infrastructure defined in the MBTA’s Bus Priority Vision and working with municipalities and fellow state agencies. To date, the group has delivered more than 40 miles of bus lanes and activated transit signal priority at more than 80 locations in 12 municipalities.  

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