By Beth Treffeisen
This past Friday, October 28, elected officials from both the city and state level came together with members of advocacy groups at a ground breaking ceremony to celebrate the start of the Phase II Commonwealth Avenue Improvement Project at Turnpike Park.
The $20 million project will help transform Commonwealth Avenue between the Boston University Bridge (BU Bridge) and Packard’s corner. This project, which will be the second of four phases, will institute many improvements for the roughly 100,000 people who use this major artery every day.
The first phase, which is completed, ran from Kenmore Square to the BU Bridge and the second phase will run from BU Bridge to Alcorn Street. Phase 2B will include the I-90 overpass and the BU Bridge Intersection. Phase 3 and 4 will run from Packard’s Corner to Warren Street.
Construction for phase two is approved to start for 2017.
“I lived in this neighborhood, various parts of it as a young men for quite a while so I’m pretty familiar with how busy it is and how many various modes of transportation find their way up and down it in a course of a day,” said Governor Charlie Baker at the ground breaking ceremony.
He continued, “I find that this project is a real joint effort between the local community, a great university, the City of Boston, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to take what fundamentally I think a re-imaging of how this all work and put it all together as a collaborative effort.”
The project will work to accommodate multi-modal demands on the roadway, including vehicular, transit, pedestrian and bicycle volume. It will include numerous safety improvements such as signal upgrades; protected turn lanes and phasing to more safely separate movement of all modes.
“We’ve seen too many crashes, injuries deaths in this area and twice as many as the state average,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “This is something we are going to continue to work for Complete Streets and safe streets in the city of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
About 80 percent of the funding came from the Federal Highway Administration Division of Massachusetts; the rest came from local, and state funding.
According to BETA the construction and design team of the project, there are over 350 bikers an hour who travel along Commonwealth Avenue.
In response to safety issues for cyclists, a major innovation of the design was implementation of the City’s first separated protected bike lane.
“You know if you were to stand here with a little clicker about 100,000 cars and people would go by this spot in a busy day,” said Stephanie Pollack the Boston Transportation Secretary.
She continued by saying that you would find that a third of them would be driving cars, another third would be getting off the Green Line and buses, and a third would be walking or riding a bike.
“Complete Streets are for all users but sometimes we forget that even on our busiest streets all users does not just mean the people in cars and this project will remind us of that,” said Pollack.
It was designed in compliance with the City’s Complete Street design guideline and Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) new design guide for separated bike lanes.
The project also includes upgrading the visual environment by planting more than 120 trees, inlaying brick treatments on sidewalks, period lighting, planters and adding street furnishings.
Key upgrades will include the reconstruction of sidewalks and street crossings that would narrow the sidewalks to offer more space for the Green Line tracks and wider travel lanes to be shared by people using cars and bikes.
“If you look at the western part of our campus, this is a huge part of it,” said Robert Brown, President of Boston University. “Over the next several years and as a decade has passed we would have invested over a billion dollars in new facilities on this part of our campus.”
He continued, “It is incredibly important to us and this project will mean a tremendous amount to our students and staff as they commute up and down Commonwealth Ave.”