MassDOT Wants to Bring Down the ‘Monument to Urban Blight’

After mulling it over for more than a year, transportation officials decide it's time to remove the McCarthy Overpass.

Photo via MassDOT

Photo via MassDOT

Residents have called it an eyesore, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone says it’s so bad not even fungus would want to live there, and now, officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have conceded and agree that the dilapidated McCarthy Overpass needs to be torn down.

On Thursday, following a public hearing in Somerville, MassDOT recommended that the McCarthy Overpass portion of McGrath Highway be grounded and the roadway developed into a Boulevard that reconnects East Somerville, Union Square and other neighborhoods nearby. McGrath Highway, known as the Route 28 corridor, and the overpass that runs above it, connects Somerville to Cambridge, and leads towards Interstate 93 and Storrow Drive.

The structure, which is currently undergoing repair due to rusting, has been a public nuisance for people in the area, including pedestrians, drivers, and businesses located next to it. Once torn down, as recommended by the state, it will allow for wider sidewalks, bicycle paths, and added green space to help spur redevelopment and enhance existing uses along the corridor. “Our decision to go with the boulevard option reflects the strong desire to integrate more, and healthier, modes of transportation into our highway network,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola. “Investing public dollars into projects like this will catalyze private development, which creates jobs and economic activity, which will benefit Somerville for the next generation.”

Last year, the LivableStreets Alliance, a non-profit organization that advocates for urban transportation and multi-city connectivity, launched an aggressive campaign to try and persuade the state to do away with the overpass. The campaign brought more than 200 people to a public meeting with MassDOT last March, as the state agency conducted its own study called “Ground McGrath.”

The decision and update about the need to remove the portion of the roadway in order to create a more connected boulevard was the result of that study, and the hearings with residents.

Upon hearing the news about the McCarthy Highway tear-down, Curtatone took to his personal Facebook account to verbally knock the unsightliness of the overpass. “I can’t stress enough just how momentous a turn of events it is that the state is now planning to take down the McGrath overpass. You really can’t say enough bad things about the overpass. It’s a monument to urban blight, not even mushrooms grow in its shadow,” he said. “It will be like removing a scar that runs through our city. And turning it into a ground-level boulevard will foster economic development along that corridor, which will help to shift Somerville’s local tax burden off of residential property owners. It’s a win-win-win-win-win proposition.”

MassDOT’s recommendations will help support other projects going on adjacent to the Route 28 corridor, including the MBTA Green Line Extension, Somerville Community Path, and the North Point development in Cambridge.

Below is a video created by LivableStreets last year, where locals talk about the adverse effects the overpass has on the area:

LivableStreets Video – McGrath Highway from Paul Sohn on Vimeo.