By Beth Treffeisen
Phase one of the South Bay Harbor Trail bike and pedestrian path that is set to run between Roxbury and the South Boston waterfront is scheduled to begin construction this spring.
The City of Boston has worked to secure over $3 million in federal and state funds to construct the first phase of the South Bay Harbor Trail. When completed, the three and one-half mile trail will provide a safe walking and cycling path from Ruggles Station in Roxbury to the South Boston waterfront.
“It is really an enormous city opportunity to engage mobility options of transportation that are equitable and provide a link from neighborhoods to a job sector in the South Boston waterfront,” said Gina Fiandaca the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) Commissioner. “People in Roxbury and other neighborhoods around the city can’t easily travel to South Boston because there isn’t a safe, acceptable transportation option.”
The first phase will involve a three-quarter of a mile stretch linking the South End to South Boston where it will connect with the existing Fort Point Channel Harborwalk.
Via the Broadway Bridge, the first phase to be constructed will extend from Albany Street near Union Park Street in the South End to Dorchester Avenue in South Boston at the entrance to the Gillette facility.
The route will cross over bridges and under highways, allowing people to walk and ride bikes in area that have traditionally been difficult, if not impossible, to navigate.
“This is the most complicated part of the project,” said Fiandaca.
Jim Gillooly the deputy commissioner for BTD, said that this trail connection would not only provide recreational use between the neighborhoods, it will also provide an essential path for commuters during the workweek.
“Every work day there will be plenty of people using it to get to work,” said Gillooly who noted that the Southwest Corridor that runs from the Forest Hill T Station in Jamaica Plain to the Back Bay Station is another connector that will lead to this important connection to the waterfront.
BTD designed the project and led a robust community process. Massachusetts Transportation Department (MassDOT) advertised it for construction on Sept. 16, with a bid opening scheduled for Feb. 13. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring.
Last February, the city secured $2.2 million for phase one of the project but after hearing feedback from the community, design changes called for additional funding by one million dollars.
The second phase of the South Bay Harbor Trail will be constructed as part of the Melnea Cass Boulevard roadway-reconstruction project. It will run from Ruggles Station, along Melnea Cass Boulevard, until the intersection with Massachusetts Avenue.
Construction for the second phase will be advertised in 2019. The City of Boston has already secured $25 million in federal and state funds to construct this second phase that will include the full reconstruction of Melnea Cass Boulevard.
“This is something folks can use to for recreational purposes but it also serves as a connection from one neighborhood to another,” said Fiandaca.
In order to connect the phase-two section to the phase-one section of the trail, a critical third phase will run from the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Ave., to Albany Street near the I-93 interchange.
Original plans had the pathway running along the Massachusetts Avenue., Connector to I-93, which Gillooly said, is not exactly a place one would like to ride a bike.
Gillooly said he is currently talking to the developers of projects that will run along Albany Street in the South End, such as the Flower Exchange site, to have the pathway running through their developments instead.
“This will better serve the community going through the new developments,” said Gillooly. “That way people can ride their bikes to a job or to run an errand.”
The South Bay Harbor Trail is one of several ongoing policies and projects identified in the Go Boston 2030 Action Plan. These policies and projects include a series of multi-use paths, such as the South Bay Harbor Trail and the Connect Historic Boston project currently in construction that will improve access, reliability and safety for pedestrians and cyclists.