A completely re-designed Melnea Cass Boulevard is progressing past the 25-percent design stage, and City officials this week said it could be advertised for construction as early as October.
The $25 million project was a need without a funding source for a long time, but the Boston Transportation Department’s (BTD) Jim Gillooly said the City recently got approved for federal monies and have it on the fast track.
“The nature of the project is all about making it accommodate all forms of transportation and making it a safer street,” he said. “It’s a key street for the South End and Roxbury. The project will have an exciting bicycle and pedestrian paths and be much improved over what’s there now. It will also be able to accommodate traffic going from either direction.”
The project runs from Tremont Street to the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, and will include two lanes of traffic in either direction, but the bicycle path will be reconfigured. Currently, the bike path on Melnea is a bumpy ride, which is being kind.
Gillooly said new bike paths would be constructed on either side, following the direction of traffic. Those lanes would be separated from the new pedestrian walkways. By having the bike paths on either side, it is believed that it will serve the neighborhoods better.
“The current layout doesn’t do well by the southerly side at Dudley Square or Orchard Gardens School,” he said. “We’re going to go with the more conventional uniflow lane on each side but we’ll introduce cross over points at each intersection. Again, the key aspect is getting people safely through those intersections, especially people on foot or on bicycle.”
In order to slow things down at the intersections of Washington Street and Albany Street, they will raise the height of the intersection about 2-inches – a unique traffic calming measure.
Gillooly added that there is particularly a good opportunity at some point to do something special with placemaking and/or public art at the Washington Street intersection.
Beyond that, through the early design, Gillooly said there has been a group of residents that have challenged BTD to re-design the project to save the existing trees as much as possible. He said that has resulted in substantial changes in some cases, but it has allowed them to save about 48 existing trees.
“In all, we are planting 250 new trees and the end result is that there will be 212 more trees there at the end of the project then when we start,” he said.
A final piece is some major flood retention infrastructure, including catch basins and flood storage sarcophagus. Those storage areas actually have the ability to be used for irrigation, or for ground water, seepage, too.
The project could be advertised as early as October for construction, but no later than September 2019. It is expected to take two full construction seasons to complete. A state 25-percent design meeting will take place on Thursday, March 1, at 7 p.m. in the Boston Water and Sewer building, 980 Harrison Ave.