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March 29, 2013

Tufts University has been working cooperatively with the Cities  of Medford and Somerville to improve pedestrian, bike and driver safety on the streets immediately adjacent to and on campus, with particular focus on the intersection of Powderhouse Boulevard and Packard Avenue.

A number of improvements were made to reduce traffic speed, increase driver caution, improve visibility and safety signage. These improvements included additional police enforcement of traffic laws, radar speed indicator feedback signage, additional standalone pedestrian crossing signs, LED signal upgrades to provide more powerful illumination and additional measures.

In November, Tufts hired Vanasse, Hangen, Brustlin, (VHB), Inc., a professional transportation and traffic engineering firm, to conduct an engineering study of the Powderhouse Boulevard and Packard Avenue intersection.

The city of Somerville, VHB and the university determined that the most appropriate next steps for improving the intersection of Powderhouse Boulevard and Packard Avenue would be to install four-way stop signs at the intersection. The four-way stop improvement was presented and approved at a special meeting of the City of Somerville’s Traffic Commission on the evening of March 27, 2013 and the change to a four-way stop was made on  the morning of March 28, 2013.

Stop signs were installed at the intersection and the blinking light on Powderhouse Boulevard was changed from yellow to red. The City will also install “approaching 4 way stop” static signage eastbound and westbound on Powderhouse Boulevard. Crosswalks will be repainted and top lines will be added on Powderhouse Boulevard in early April when weather/pavement conditions permit. Variable Message Signs will be placed at the approaches to the intersection to warn motorists of the change in traffic pattern.

The Somerville Police traffic unit has begun monitoring the intersection as well, issuing warnings for a period of time until motorists are sufficiently educated regarding the change. After the warning period, Somerville Police will continue to monitor the intersection, issuing moving violations for stop sign violations, and parking citations for motorists who park less than 20 feet from the intersection.

The intersection will be evaluated over time to determine the effectiveness of these improvements while additional improvements are considered.

Tufts and the Cities of Medford and Somerville continue to work in partnership on this issue.