On Dec. 6, a pedestrian crossing Mystic Avenue in Somerville was struck and seriously injured by a motorist.

It was the latest crash on the stretch of roadway that local activists call the "Corridor of Death," and the incident has renewed their calls for the state to speed up efforts to slow down traffic, make the roads safer for pedestrians and be transparent about the changes. The Department of Transportation says that the efforts to improve safety in the area are in progress.

Mystic Avenue is a state road under the Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction and, together with MassDOT-controlled McGrath Highway, comprises Somerville’s “Corridor of Death." It has been the site of three pedestrian deaths in less than two years. More than 700 crashes have occurred on the city’s stretch of Mystic Avenue since 2010, and a similar number on McGrath Highway.

After the last death in April, the Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets held what they called a "highway justice rally" and demanded MassDOT improve protections for vulnerable road users. MassDOT did make some immediate changes, such as installing a signaled crosswalk at Blakeley Avenue where one pedestrian was killed. The alliance is still waiting for other measures they had pushed for, including raised crosswalks at the Kensington Connector underneath Interstate 93.

Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets member Joan Liu, who lives in East Somerville, said she regularly sees drivers running red lights and speeding along this corridor. She also pointed to the dangers for pedestrians who get groceries from the Stop & Shop located at the intersection of Mystic Avenue and McGrath Highway.

"If you're coming from the housing authority on Mystic Ave. to come to get your groceries, you have to cross multiple lanes, you have to cross Mystic Avenue multiple times," Liu said. "And those sidewalks are not ADA-compliant, which means that ... if you're in a wheelchair or need any sort of mobility device, it's very hard for you to do that walk."

Pedestrians riush to cross an intersection on Mystic Avenue in Somerville, Mass. on December 23, 2021.
Meredith Nierman

Soon after the Dec. 6 crash, the state installed two speed reader signs to show drivers how fast they are traveling. Alliance member Stephanie Galaitsi said the community was not informed about the installation of the signs or consulted about their placement, and have no idea if they’re effective in slowing traffic.

Activists have asked MassDOT officials what they were doing to move the safety projects forward. But Galaitsi said they were asking the wrong questions.

“We should have asked: how long can MassDOT delay improvements without serious consequences for the next vulnerable road user? Maybe if we had asked those questions, we might have been able to press for more sooner,” she said.

Following the Dec. 6 crash, MassDOT released a report saying the safety improvement project was well underway but was delayed due to its complexity.

Galaitsi argues the department should have implemented temporary safety measures until construction could begin on permanent fixes. She and other alliance members are asking MassDOT to consider immediate interventions, such as placing cones to slow down drivers and publicly releasing speed meter data.

She said MassDOT has to do a better job of communicating with the community. ”Talk to us and our neighbors. Our community was not informed about the delay, nor could we propose any interim mitigating measures,” she said. “Engage with our community proactively rather than solely when responding to another tragedy.”

Liu also stressed the need for transparency.

“I want them to let us know that things are happening and that they hear us,” she said.

GBH News Director of Photography Meredith Nierman contributed to this story.