Tremont Street Re-Design Gets High Marks for Thorough Proposals

The City presented the South End community with three detailed proposals for the re-design of Tremont Street last Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Tubman House – and many were impressed by the detailed designs that had been accomplished in the last several months.

“From the pedestrian and cyclist perspectives, I’m very happy,” said Eric Huang, who said he uses all modes of transportation – car, bus, bike and foot. “Overall I’m very happy with the thought put into it.”

That seem to be the tenor of the meeting, where the City made a presentation on the three concepts and then unleashed residents to look at the three detailed drawings of the corridor – from Melnea Cass to Herald Street – in an Open House format.

Other proposals that were included were side projects like three options to make Shawmut Street a bigger corridor for bicyclists, and a plan to consolidate bus stops on Tremont Street.

Stefanie Seskin, active transportation director, said they have put a lot of work into the concepts over the last several months, while also installing the temporary measures last summer on the street. She said the City has prioritized the corridor, but things were definitely sped up due to the two deaths on the street in the past 24 months – one by West Newton and one by Upton Street.

“I think some of the impetus for this came from that and the real strong focus on producing something that would be safe for pedestrians,” she said. “It’s very tough to know someone that died or see where it was they were at. Everyone is very excited about what we’ve done and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. People will make mistakes and we can’t correct every mistake, but if there is a mistake, we want to make sure maybe it isn’t fatal or results in people getting severely injured.”

That was exactly the sentiment of State Rep.-elect Jon Santiago, who as an emergency room doctor at Boston Medical, said he had seen three people injured in crashes just this week, including one bicyclist who was paralyzed.

“I think I like the thoughtfulness and effort the City is putting into this,” he said. “It’s really needed in a dense, urban district like the South End and Lower Roxbury. This past week I took care of three people hit by cars – one pedestrian and two cyclists. All were preventable. I live on Tremont and take the 43 bus and I bike too. This affects my quality of life. I give a lot of credit to the Mayor’s Office for listening to people’s concerns and putting so much work into this.”

For the most part, concept #3 was a lonely place, with few people looking or interested in it. That’s because it was basically the same format as exists today. Most everyone seemed to agree that the current layout is no longer preferable.

That left concept #1 and concept #2.

Concept #1 reduced the road to two traffic lanes with floating bus stops that extended beyond a dedicated, protected bike lane. The pedestrian islands were eliminated due to the street being narrowed, and the mid-block had parking protected bike lanes. There are 316 parking space on the corridor, and if the floating bus stops can be accomplished, only two spaces would be lost. Without the floating stops, there would be 42 spots lost.

There would also be raised crosswalks on all side streets, and more time would be added for pedestrians to cross at the busiest intersections.

Concept #2 allows for the mid-block islands to protect pedestrians, and utilizes a shared-use bike lane with one lane of traffic in each direction. Parking would be flush with the curb and there would also be raised crosswalks on the side streets and longer times to cross.

Huang said he likes both concepts that drop a lane of traffic, and prioritize bicycles and pedestrians, both #1 and #2. However, he said he is concerned also about how traffic will flow.

“My concern is the unsignalized intersections and how that will affect the flow of traffic,” he said. “When you drop traffic to a single lane, there are fewer gaps and opportunities to make a left turn and that makes all the drivers behind you angry because you holdup the flow. The devil’s in the details about traffic counts, and they say the counts are low for left turns, but I can see it being a problem.”

The presentation on Nov. 28 was just the beginning of a much larger effort. Seskin said they will have more community meetings through January and would accept additional comments online through February.

Through the winter and spring 2019, they will develop a preferred concept (or a mix of several concepts) and bring those to fully engineered plans. The final design is thought to be ready by June.

Construction will be determined later, and is pending utility work on Tremont, but should be within a year’s time.

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