City Considering Making Changes to Five Intersections Around Public Garden

After making changes to walk signals and creating separated bike lanes on the streets around the Public Garden last year via its multi-phase Connect Downtown project, the city is now considering making permanent design changes at five intersections near the Public Garden.

At the intersection of Boylston Street at Charles Street, where separated bike lanes and new bike signals were introduced last fall, the city is now seeking to significantly expand the sidewalk next to the Boston Common to create a gateway entrance to the Common with the potential for new plantings and benches, according to the city, which is working closely with the Boston Common Master Plan.

All crosswalks at the intersection will be widened, while all the curb on the north side of Boylston Street would be rebuilt and widened. A slight change would be made to the traffic signal operations as well, although no changes would be made to the vehicle capacity at the intersection from current conditions.

Additionally, southbound bicycle access would be introduced on Charles Street to Boylston Street – a change that, according to the city, would improves access to Downtown, as well as provide an alternative to riding bikes through the Boston Common, which is not allowed.

At the Charles Street crosswalk between the Public Garden and Boston Common, which was expanded last year while the frequency of the Walk signal was doubled, the proposed design changes include: widening the curb ramps to match the existing 60-foot-wide crosswalk; adding another pedestrian signal; and installing a bike signal to stop southbound bicyclists while pedestrians are crossing Charles Street. No changes to traffic signal operations, nor to vehicle capacity, would be made at the crosswalk, according to the city.

At the intersection of Beacon Street at Charles Street, proposed changes include: building two raised islands – one located on the west side of Charles Street just south of the crosswalk between the Common and Public Garden, the other on the south side of Beacon Street between Charles Street and River Street – to protect pedestrians and bicyclists; retaining existing crosswalks and curb ramps; and introducing southbound bicycling on Charles Street between Beacon Street and Boylston Street. The existing separated bike lane on this block will be made two-way – again, to improve access to Downtown, as well as to provide an alternative to riding bikes through the Common. No changes to traffic signal operations, nor to vehicle capacity, would be made at this intersection.

Last year, the city installed a one-way, separated bike lane on Charles Street and on Beacon Street.

At the intersection of Beacon Street at Arlington Street, proposed design changes include: simplifying the pedestrian crossing between the Public Garden and the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge; building two new crosswalks – one across Arlington Street on the south side of Beacon Street, the other across Beacon Street between Arlington Street and Mugar Way; replacing the island with a mountable island, which will allow for larger trucks to turn while keeping most drivers in their lanes as they enter onto Arlington Street; adding a separated bike lane on the south side of Beacon Street from Arlington Street to Mugar Way to close the existing gap in the bicycle network (bicyclist movements will not be in conflict with pedestrian movements); and adjusting signal timing to accommodate the new design. People walking and biking will also be protected from turning vehicles. No changes will be made to vehicle capacity at this intersection.

The proposed changes at this location, according to the city, comes into response top feedback received on how difficult it can be to cross this intersection, especially because people walking from the Public Garden to the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge have to cross Beacon Street via a small island.

At the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue at Arlington Street, where, according to the city, 50 percent of pedestrians walk directly between the Commonwealth Avenue Mall to the Public Garden gates despite the absence of a crosswalk, proposed design include: creating a “new, iconic crosswalk” between the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and the Public Garden, with a wide crosswalk and curb ramps to improve accessibility for pedestrians crossing Arlington Street; retaining the existing crosswalks across Arlington Street on the north and south sides of Commonwealth Avenue; replacing diagonal curb ramps with directional curb ramps to improve accessibility; and adding a new bike crossing across Arlington Street north of the new crosswalk.

Minor changes would be made to traffic signal operations, but there will be no change to vehicle capacity at this intersection.

“This project will help families explore Boston’s neighborhoods and iconic parks from the Esplanade to the Boston Common to the Southwest Corridor,” a city spokesperson said of Connect Boston. “It will improve pedestrian crossings, provide comfortable routes for bicyclists, and enhance access for residents and visitors alike.”

Of the plan, Rep. Jay Livingstone wrote, “I’m pleased that the bike lanes are being made permanent.  I think it has generally been a success. I hope now the city will invest in more bike specific stop lights to improve pedestrian safety around the Public Garden.”

Likewise, Elliott Laffter, chair of Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, wrote, “Our Development and Transportation Committee has been looking at the proposals. We are pleased with improvements at the important crossing between the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and the Public Garden.  We also look forward to improved crossings of Arlington Street, at Beacon and Boylston streets.”

Connect Boston, meanwhile, is conducting a survey to solicit feedback on all or one of the intersections, or you can talk one-on-one with a member of the project team, which take place between 3 and 7 p.m. every other Wednesday through January. Sign up for a 15-minute phone call or virtual meeting.

Comments can also be sent to: Boston Transportation Department, ATTN: Stefanie Seskin, 1 City Hall Square, Room 721, Boston, MA 02201, or via email to [email protected].    Visit https://storymaps.arcgis.- com/stories/004d5a37796144- f89b32d895d39e6aa1.

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