The long-awaited reconstruction of Needham Street and Highland Ave is about to begin.
Preliminary utility work on the nearly two-mile long corridor will begin this fall with the entire project expected to take five years to complete.
“There’s certainly going to be disruption and inconvenience,” Thomas Currier, Supervising Project Manager for MassDOT said at a meeting organized by the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber on Sept. 27. “It’s going to take a lot of patience and cooperation and forgiveness but people will be happy at the end of it."
The project stretches for more than two miles; starting at the junction of Winchester Street and Route 9 in Newton, and extending down Needham Street, across the Charles River onto Highland Avenue in Needham and ending at the intersection at Webster Street.
The project is designed to improve walkability for pedestrians, reduce conflict points for cars and improve biking safety.
The historic bridge over the Charles River will have two lanes heading into Newton and one lane headed into Needham. Cantilevered sidewalks will make the bridge safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
The one thing the project won’t do is widen the street to accommodate more lanes of cars.
Instead the aim is to make it safer and easier for more people to access the area no matter which mode of transportation they choose.
“We could put four lanes out there and it would become a freeway, nobody would like that,” Currier said.
He said project designers hope to improve traffic flow by using state of the art, adaptive traffic signals, redesigned turning lanes and a reduced number of curb cuts.
The disruptions will begin this fall when streets will be torn up to move gas main lines along nearly the entire length of the project, Currier said.
He anticipated all of the gas line relocation in Needham will be completed this fall. The gas line work on the Newton portion of the project won’t likely be completed until the spring, depending on the weather.
In all instances all work will be done in phases and two-way traffic flow will be maintained throughout the entire project.
Currier said the first two years of the project will primarily involve the moving of utility lines to accommodate the new sidewalks and bike lanes.
Currier said MassDOT is committed to having a project management team on site throughout the process to communicate and work with businesses and residents who are concerned about disruptions.The agency expects contractors will do most of its work overnight but some daytime work will be needed, particularly in areas located near residents.
The designs for the proposed Northland project along Needham and Oak streets have been fully integrated into the roadway designs.