On November 18, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood provided a six month update to Mayor Walsh’s Healthy Streets initiative, which was launched on May 28 as a way to support the safe travel of residents, especially essential workers, to and from their jobs.
Another goal of the project was “making sure we were advancing the long term goals of Go Boston 2030,” Osgood told reporters last Wednesday.
Osgood reported that over the last six months, several projects have been completed. More than 6.4 miles of new protected bike lanes were built in the downtown area, Mattapan, and Roslindale, three major roadways were redesigned, and three new dedicated bus lanes were created, he said. New bike lanes include “cones, barrels, and water-filled barriers that provided more space for physically-distanced activity and connection to jobs,” according to a press release from the City.
“A huge priority for us and the mayor is the goal of having zero fatalities and serious crashes on our streets,” Osgood said. He said this can be done by reducing speeds on roads, and traffic calming measures have been implemented on American Legion Highway, Columbus Avenue, and Cummins Highway. On American Legion Highway and other streets, walk signals, modular curbs, and posts have been added to create the new bike lane.
Additionally, updated street crossing and increased accessibility for pedestrians with disabilities have been implemented to make streets safer, Osgood said.
According to the release from the City, the Connect Downtown project adjusted street layouts and traffic and walk signals on streets such as Tremont, Boylston, Charles, Beacon, and Arlington St., among others to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
New bus lanes on Columbus Ave. “creates the first center-running bus lane in the northeast,” Osgood said, and new bus lanes on Washington St. in Roslindale “provides the outbound match to the inbound lane,” he added.
He also talked about new targeted programs, such as discounts on bike share memberships for essential workers, new parking policies for hospital staff, and curbside pickup for restaurants.
Osgood said that other outcomes after the first six months have included “new materials for piloting, new approaches for communicating, [and] new platforms for engaging,” according to a presentation.
“There is more work in front of us,” Osgood said, as the City continues to consider things like transit reliability and bike safety.
“These changes to City streets improve safety and keep drivers¡¯ speeds in check, as well as provide safe and reliable commutes for those commuting by bike or bus,” the release states. “More space to walk and to bike help our residents improve their mental and physical well-being during a trying year.”
Osgood said that the next phase of projects for the spring include building out the bike network even more, looking at other “key bus corridors,” and he said there is funding in the capital budget to make bike lanes granite and concrete instead of flex posts and painted asphalt.
He said other projects related to Mass. Ave. South and connecting Melnea Cass Blvd. to Columbia Road with a protected bike lane are also in the works.
Osgood also addressed the recently announced proposed service cuts on the MBTA, and said that “we have voiced our strong concerns” about “cutting short the E line at Brigham Circle.” He said that “in the middle of the pandemic” is not a good time to reduce cut back on service on a line that serves the VA hospital and other healthcare needs. He said that directing people to a potentially crowded bus for alternative service is a poor choice during the pandemic as well.
“The Healthy Streets initiative outlines our goals to support a safe, reopening and equitable recovery in Boston, and I’m pleased to see substantial progress made on these important projects,” Mayor Walsh said in a statement. “Safe and reliable transportation, especially for our essential workers and commuters, is one of our top priorities as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For more information about the downtown design changes, visit boston.gov/departments/transportation/connect-downtown#design-changes.