Cambridge Common and Flagstaff Park

The Cambridge Common and Flagstaff Park project aims to rehabilitate all aspects of the Common as well as improve conditions for all users of these parks and those travelling along this section of Mass. Avenue, from Garden Street to Cambridge Street. It also seeks to unify the historic landscape of the Common by simplifying the vocabulary of the design. The planning of the project has been underway for many years, along with securing funding for the nearly $4m project. The project will replace all pathway surfaces on the Common to meet access codes with bituminous paving with a brick edge, replace and upgrade all benches and trash cans, plant over 100 trees and remove older under-story plantings, improve drainage and turf surfaces, and rehabilitate the lighting system to extend its life and add lighting to pathways where it is missing.

Across the street, along the Mass. Avenue side of Flagstaff Park, the curbs will be moved out and a two-way multi-use path constructed with crossings at each end to create better bicycle and pedestrians connections between Harvard Square and Mass. Avenue northbound.

April 23, 2014

Newport Construction is currently awaiting a notice to proceed with the work from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

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March 26, 2014

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has awarded the Cambridge Common contract to Newport Construction.

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September 19, 2013

Final construction plans are under development. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation anticipates placing the project out to bid during the fall of 2013. Construction is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2014. The project is anticipated to take approximately 24 months to complete. Access to the playground as well through the Cambridge Common is expected to be maintained during the period of work, with some pedestrian detours as paths are reconstructed. Most events and sporting activities will need to be relocated during construction.

Local, state and federal funds have been allocated to this project for construction. State and federal funds are currently programmed on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for federal Fiscal Year 2013. The project is anticipated to be bid in the fall of 2013 and construction is anticipated to start in the spring of 2014. Final design and construction plans will be completed as soon as possible to meet this schedule.

Cambridge Common is a National Historic Landmark. Its long and colorful history, connecting it with seventeenth century New England settlement, the Revolutionary War, and regional nineteenth and twentieth century events and trends, make it an important place and tourist attraction.

The Common is also one of the city's major parks. It contains a popular tot lot (which was recently re-built with a $500,000 renovation), youth soccer and other passive activities on its 16 acres. It is a haven for neighborhood people who want a place to relax in the sun or on a bench under a tree. The Common is also significant in that over 10,000 pedestrians and cyclists pass through it on a daily basis.

The Cambridge Common underwent its last significant reconstruction in 1974. At the present time, many elements of the Common need significant work, including broken pathway paving, missing and broken lighting, poor drainage, excess paving, older benches and trash cans, gaps in the tree canopy and older plantings.

A history of changes to the Common was compiled by the city’s Historical Commission and can be by going to the documents tab.

Pedestrian and bicycle travel through this area can be difficult because of the amount of vehicle traffic and past reconfigurations of the roadway to accommodate an underpass constructed under the Harvard campus at Peabody and Cambridge streets and the MBTA bus tunnel at Flagstaff Park. Peabody Street and Garden Street are too narrow for bicycle lanes, and the volume and nature of how traffic flows around the Common makes it difficult for cyclists. At present, the primary travel routes for pedestrians and cyclists wanting to travel from Harvard Square to Mass. Avenue northbound are through the north yard of the Harvard campus or through the Common but these routes may not best serve people depending on their exact starting and ending points.

Because of the complex travel patterns in the area, the Common's function as a travel corridor is being improved through small changes. Minor pathway realignments and other pathway changes are being made to reflect actual pedestrian and bicycle travel patterns and to minimize conflict between the two travel modes. In general, pathway widths are staying the same, except where minor widening is being done to make paths a consistent width.

Concerns about pedestrian/bicycle conflict on shared-use paths in and around the Common have been discussed in depth through several public forums over the years. Representatives of the Pedestrian Committee, the Bicycle Committee, Committee on Public Planting, Historical Commission, Harvard University, Cambridge Office of Tourism, and representatives of the various City departments (including Community Development; Traffic, Parking, and Transportation; Public Works; Police; and the City Manager's Office) reached an agreement several years ago that pedestrians and cyclists should both be accommodated on the Common with this renovation proposal.

As part of the Harvard Square Design Study completed in 2004, the lack of a good bicycle and pedestrian connection through Flagstaff Park was noted as a major impediment to travel between Harvard Square and North Mass. Avenue. The study recommended a multi-use path connection through Flagstaff Park be designed to create a direct and safe connection along the north-eastern edge of Mass. Avenue opposite the Common.

  • Cambridge Common

City of Cambridge
Department of Public Works
147 Hampshire Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Office hours are Mondays, 8:30 AM to 8 PM
Tuesday through Thursday, 8:30 AM to 5 PM
Fridays, 8:30 AM to 12 noon

For additional information or assistance, please contact  Kelly Dunn, Community Relations Manager, at 617.349.4870 or kdunn@cambridgema.gov.

For 24-hour emergency assistance please call Public Works at 617.349.4800.

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Dept of Public Works

147 Hampshire St
Cambridge MA 02139

Phone:617.349.4800
TDD:617.499.9924

Hours of Service

Monday: 8:30am-8:00pm
Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30am-5:00pm
Friday: 8:30am-12 noon
24 Hour emergency 617.349.4860

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