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Summer Street redesign progresses; plans now include cycle track

Posted by Patrick Rosso  October 31, 2013 02:58 PM

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(Image courtesy BRA)

The scope of the Congress Street and Summer Street redevelopment.

Efforts to redesign a portion of Summer Street in the Fort Point area are progressing and shovels could be in the ground as early as April 2014, city officials told community members Wednesday night.

For the past several years the Boston Redevelopment Authority, along with its partners within the city, have worked to redesign Summer Street from the bridge that connects the neighborhood to South Station to the bridge that connects the neighborhood to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center; an approximately quarter-mile stretch of roadway.

The project is part of the BRA’s larger Crossroads Initiative, which seeks to improve vital neighborhood connections to parks, greenways, and cultural destinations.

A redesign and redevelopment of the Fort Point’s portion of Congress Street is also part of the overall project, but that phase has been separated from the Summer Street effort.

“The intent was to do Summer Street and Congress Street and we decided last year to prioritize Summer Street; it’s a huge connection for the neighborhood,” said Jonathan Greeley, a project manager with the BRA.

At a Wednesday night meeting at the Boston Children’s Museum members of the BRA’s project team laid out the scope of the project and its projected timeline.

The Summer Street portion, expected to cost an estimated $5.5-million, includes both upgrades to the roadway and a number improvements to its streetscape. New street trees will replace the ones that currently line the corridor and public art, benches, widened sidewalks, and a two-way separated bike path, also known as a cycle track, will be added. New lights, similar to ones found throughout the neighborhood, are also included.

Although the redevelopment of the roadway, expected to take two-years, will make big changes to the area, it will not change the road’s four vehicle travel lanes or on-street parking. The metered parking spaces will, however, be converted from the traditional dual meter system to a multi-space system, which allows more parking flexibility.

The two-way cycle track, which received quite a bit of attention Wednesday night, will be located on the northern side of the street opposite of Melcher Street.

“As we’ve improved the bikeability of Boston, the idea of getting bikes off of the road and onto a bike track is a city goal,” said Greeley. “There is the idea that Summer Street could be a bicycle corridor.”

The cycle track will be separated from vehicle traffic with a physical barrier and will be level with the sidewalk. Although plans only call for the installation of the track on the project’s portion of Summer Street, Greeley said separate city projects are expected to add buffered bikes lanes to the bridges that connect to the Fort Point section of Summer Street.

Some neighbors at Wednesday's meeting did call for the city to dedicate more resources to bikes.

“We can’t just have these 45-seconds of safe cycling,” said Valerie Burns, an area resident. “It’s a shame to stop it there.”

The Congress Street portion of the project, which has been split into two phases, will make a number of changes to the corridor, but they will be less dramatic than Summer Street.

The first phase of that project, expected to break ground in 2014 and be completed within a year, will add a signaled pedestrian crossing to the roadway directly in front of the Boston Children's Museum. The approximately $500,000 phase, which stretches from the Congress Street bridge to Sleeper Street, will also include the widening of some sidewalks, the addition of lighting, and the repaving of a portion of the road.

The second phase of the project, estimated to cost between $2.5- to $3-million and stretch from Sleeper Street to Boston Wharf Road, will also widen sidewalks, repair the road, and add public realm improvements. That phase has not been designed, but planners with the BRA said they hope to have design by next year.

Neither phase for Congress Street includes street trees, a deliberate move by designers because trees often don’t do well in the area, according to Greeley.

“When we plant street trees on Congress Street, they die,” said Greeley.

Planners said they expect to be back in front of the community before any ground is broken on either Summer Street or Congress Street. A meeting has not been scheduled as of yet.


(Image courtesy BRA)

A rendering of the Summer Street design.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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