Comm Ave Phases 2A, 2B, 3

The FY15 TIP includes funding for Comm Ave Phase 2A: from Amory Street to Alcorn Street, and there are rumors of the project finally starting to get in motion. This started in December when BTD requested permissions to chop down trees along Comm Ave, a request which was denied. I thank the Senator for acting quickly to help the community on that particular aspect.

It has been over two years since any kind of public presentation of Phase 2A, and several of us are starting to worry that bad decisions may be made behind closed doors without public input. Such as the previously stated decision to try chopping down trees without even showing the plans to the public.

Comm Ave Phase 2A is an important corridor, with a high number of pedestrians and bike riders. It also hosts the busiest yet slowest branch of the Green Line, and a large amount of vehicular travel.

I believe transparency on the upcoming design is important to ensure that

  • BTD is following its own Complete Streets Guidelines to protect vulnerable street users,
  • the MBTA is fixing longstanding issues with the Green Line by incorporating signal priority and station modernization/consolidation,
  • the new design becomes an asset, not a barrier, to the community.

Phase 2B will include the reconstruction of the overpass of I-90 and the intersection with the BU Bridge. This intersection was designed by Callahan during the Mass Pike extension days, and is a sore mess that is hated by every user, as far as I know. I have been told that there are negotiations behind the scenes with regard to Phase 2B, but no public action as of yet.

Phase 3 will be the reconstruction of Comm Ave between Packard’s Corner and Warren Street. This part of Comm Ave differs significantly from Phase 2A and 2B. Vehicular travel on this section is extremely low, lower than the 2-lane streets which are perpendicular to it. Yet, it hosts one of the busiest surface stations on the Green Line, in Harvard Ave, and it is a densely populated corridor with high walking, transit and biking mode shares. There is also a major opportunity here to fix many of the longstanding problems with the Green Line by shifting the reservation towards the center of the street, instead of the way it is on the north side. No public process has been forthcoming as of yet for this phase, and I am not sure funds are identified yet either.

I believe that moving forward into 2014 and FY15, we ought to see a public process begin on at least Phases 2A, 2B, and insofar as the changes impact 2A, on Phase 3. Comm Ave is a critical corridor for the health of the Allston and Brighton neighborhoods, and it is important for the future of those neighborhoods that we are able to fix many of the longstanding problems caused by past negligence.

Thank you,
Matthew Danish

4 replies on “Comm Ave Phases 2A, 2B, 3”

  1. Further updates:

    BTD is preparing to move to 75% design. They have never responded to our comments on the 25% design that were offered in March of 2012 after the first and only public meeting.

    The 75% design is similar to the 25% but with a few small changes. It has become clear that the design process was funded by Boston University and that they had no intention of including the public in the process. There has been effectively no real public process and they have planned nothing but a possible “informational” meeting only.

    In both the 75% and the 25% designs, the main feature is the modernization of intersections and streetscape. However, the plan also includes the widening of each travel and parking lane, and significant narrowing of the sidewalk. This implies that most of the existing mature trees must be cut down (and replaced) and that the sidewalk widths will be on the minimal side instead of the generous side.

    Data show that public transit, walking and biking completely dominates the mode share of all travel in this corridor. Yet, there are no plans to improve the bicycle lane nor any plans to create any additional crossings of the street, despite heavy pedestrian and bicycle usage of the corridor. The bicycle lane will continue to be sandwiched between travel and parking lanes, and it does not appear that the BTD has any plans to make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street.

    Officials have spoken several times of the need to prioritize “safety” on this corridor but their actions speak otherwise. Widening each of the travel lanes will encourage drivers to press the “pedal to the metal” and go fast along the 700-foot long blocks that currently exist. The existing fences along with any new barriers that BTD erects will create a “divided highway” feeling that goads higher speeds, at the expense of the large population of residents, walkers, transit users and bikers.

    We have already seen this happen in Phase 1 of Comm Ave where the intersections are completely incapable of handling the massive pedestrian volumes and their inadequate signal timing means that the signals are largely ignored by anyone who doesn’t have all day to wait. It is a regular occurrence for students to be hit by speeding cars — thankfully most crashes have not led to deaths.

    I believe that the key to safety is finding ways to lower speeds of motor vehicles. Modern traffic calming techniques involve creating shorter blocks, narrower lanes, more crosswalks, and general pedestrian friendliness all along the street — the opposite of the BTD/BU plan.

    While BTD, BU officials, LivableStreets and I all agree on the goal of safety, I believe that BTD and BU are going about it the wrong way and will end up producing a more dangerous street with narrower sidewalks; damage that is hard to undo.

    1. Matt,

      Thank you for this thoughtful assessment of where we are.

      My office will undertake to get a better handle on where this project is headed and report back.

      FYI, on a related issue, I just heard from the T and we do expect to a public hearing in the fall about the Green Line stop consolidation in the BU area.


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