Somerville Ave, gateway to the underworld

Or that’s what it looks like, given the array of 20-plus earthmoving machines scattered along just the third of it’s length that I carefully traversed yesterday in it’s unending dig of construction.

For those of you not fortunate enough to live near The Hub, Somerville Ave is a stoplight strewn, respectably sized street running along the southeast corner of Somerville. It’s a not terribly distinguished stretch of various commercial enterprises going from Porter Square in Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville. It’s not even terribly central to Somerville as a city; either Broadway, Highland Ave, or ironically enough Medford St (which does go to Medford) are much more obviously the major avenues in Somerville.

And it’s been under construction for years.

Seriously, though: how long has it been? 2 years certainly, has it been 3? And I’m not talking small bits: large sections have been torn up and partly rebuilt regularly, and every other month one stretch or another seems to be shut down with a detour around it. And we’re not talking a Big Dig or a highway or bridges or anything: this is just a plain old city surface street. Why do they need to dig up sections repeatedly? I know modern utility infrastructure, especially when done right, is a complex undertaking: still, it feels like the doctor who forgot to count how many sponges they used in an operation.

Ah – I see. It was supposed to have begun in May 2007, or so the very nicely done Somerville city website claims. I would have sworn there was major construction there earlier, maybe when I was in college, and wasn’t it under construction in high school too? It sure feels like forever. And no, I have little right to complain: I don’t live in Somerville, although I do commute there from time to time.

But I hear you ask, dear reader: why the gateway to the underworld? Why that phrase, why not some clever twist on it’s gateway status to Union Square, or Portage Square instead? Why not just the more plain spoken “What the heck is up with Somerville Ave?”

  • They’re digging pretty deep. Who knows what they’ll find: Massachuset artifacts, alewife fossils, or tidbits of drumlin artifacts? Seriously: one of the half-dug up streets has a solid 8-10 inch differential between the two halves. That’s after they’ve done the temporary repaving.
  • If it weren’t for the fact that it’s A) a government agency, and 2) a significant utility and roadway improvement project, then I’d have to believe that someone made a deal with the underworld to string out a project this long.
  • It makes for a good post title.

In any case, one of the best things that can be said for the construction is that it can’t make Union Square traffic any more confusing. Just slower.

One thought on “Somerville Ave, gateway to the underworld

  1. You’re remembering the Mass Ave construction that went on before the current Sommerville Ave construction. And it takes this long because it really is a huge job to reconstruct the roadway and all the utilities and keep a minimal level of service on a major surface artery.

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