Businesses, Residents Have Concerns Over Tremont Street Re-Design at Forum

The plans for the Tremont Street Re-Design are no secret by now, but as many in the South End discover them anew, there is some trepidation about eliminating a lane of traffic on the corridor.

The South End Forum hosted Chief of Streets Chris Osgood and Stefanie Siskin, who is the project manager of the effort, to present their latest plans and updates – including a business-centered walk-through that will take place this Friday (starting at noon on Appleton/Tremont).

“The big news is on Friday we’ll be having a walk with the business community on Tremont Street,” said Siskin. “We want to hear what people think of our ideas for how to use the curb. We have some bold ideas for that. People may not like it, so we’re working with the businesses first and then coming to the general community.”

Using the curb is defined as what spaces are delineated for what uses – such as two-hour parking, loading zones, pick-up/drop-off areas for ride-shares and bus stops.

Those bold ideas weren’t yet shared, but what was on the mind of many at the meeting was the idea of taking four lanes of traffic on Tremont Street down to one lane in each direction. The plan calls for one lane in either direction, with enhanced crossings and turning lanes (a third lane) at each signalized intersection.

David Walker, who lives off Tremont Street, said he was very concerned that there would be only one lane and that buses would tie up traffic.

“Other than you’re hatred for the car, I don’t understand where this plan is going,” he said. “If you don’t want cars on Tremont Street, you have to improve the public transit…If a bus stops in that lane, it’s going to back up traffic tremendously.”

Moderator Steve Fox said on many occasions that he has changed his mind numerous times on the two-lane versus four-lane situation. He said the arguments are good on both sides.

Others were concerned about the large emphasis placed on bicycles.

“There is a tremendous weight given to bicycles and probably five months of the year there are no bikes,” said one man. “Yet there is this whole infrastructure for bikes. An awful lot of people are not going to ride bikes.”

Siskin said the main idea for the project was for pedestrian safety, as there had been many injuries with the four-lane configuration and even deaths.

“The urgency here is to make the crossings better,” she said. “They only way to do that is to make sure there is one lane coming at a time. The bicycle infrastructure is a great bonus, but the core is improving pedestrian safety.”

Osgood said Tremont Street is in the top 5 percent of the most dangerous streets in Boston for many categories. He said this plan could change that.

“It is a plan we need in order to make it safer for pedestrians and we believe the plan we’ve designed does that.”

There is no further meetings for the general public scheduled aside from the business stroll Friday. Siskin said there would be general meetings scheduled after the first of the year.

•TRASH CONTRACT GOING WELL

After five months of a new trash contractor in the South End – that being Capitol Waste – there seems to be fewer problems than anticipated. The earlier trash pickups have also been going well also, Public Works officials told the South End Forum.

“The intent of picking up earlier is to see how do we get trucks in and out before the morning rush, and then back in and out before the afternoon rush,” said Osgood.

He said the South End pickups were ending at around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, thus subjecting trash trucks to rush-hour congestion. That has changed significantly, he said.

He said the Tuesday pick-ups are ending at 2 p.m. now, and the Friday pick-ups at 1 p.m. – saving tremendous time.

He said one area that has been a problem is Columbus Avenue, where the pick-ups are not coming before the rush hour.

On the contrary, Public Works’ Brian Coughlin said Massachusetts Avenue has been a success.

“We are getting the trash trucks in and out of there and then cleaning the street before the morning rush,” he said. “It’s clearly a clean neighborhood when you’re driving up Mass. Ave. It’s clean at 8 a.m. and people don’t see the litter anymore. Maybe people driving there are bringing traffic into our city, but at least they can see that it is a clean city and people take care.”

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