BPDA Holds Meeting on Fenway-Kenmore Transportation Plan

The Boston Planning & Development Agency sponsored a Fenway Community Advisory Committee meeting via Zoom on Tuesday Oct. 25, to discuss the start of the Fenway-Kenmore Transportation Action Plan.

Nick Schmidt, BPDA senior project manager and senior transportation planner, said the Action Plan team includes  members of the BPDA, the Boston Transportation Department, the city’s Public Works Department, its Disabilities Commission, and the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, along with the Action Plan Interagency Team, which includes representatives from state agencies, including the MBTA, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

While Schmidt said this process is only just beginning, and that no recommendations have been made or analysis completed yet, the Action Plan is “a holistic planning and design initiative that will guide the transformation of the Fenway transportation networks through public projects and private development.”

The Action Plan has four major tasks, said Schmidt, including “planning a safe, complete, and connected networks to inform all analysis and design; developing and maintaining a multimodal network model to analyze proposed changes; designing streets and spaces; and engaging the community and stakeholders.”

The BPDA completed the Request for Proposals (RFP) process for the Action Plan on Oct. 13, said Schmidt, and has since hired a consulting team led by Nelson\Nygaard and includes McMahon Associates, Utile, Agency Landscape + Planning, and Rivera Consulting.

As for the timing of the Action Plan’s launch, Schmidt said it’s part of a “coordinated response” to meet the goals of Go Boston 2030, an ambitious plan to transform the city’s streets and transportation system in the next 10 to 15 years, among other objectives.

Additionally, the Action Plan will incorporate new guidelines that will be outlined in the city’s new Curb Use Guidebook, which is still in draft form, said Schmidt.

With this is mind, the Action Plan will look at transforming pavement into new public space in Kenmore Square, on Brookline Avenue, and the intersection of Ipswich and Van Ness streets. “Those are the three major ones we want to address,” added Schmidt.

Meanwhile, the Action Plan is being developed in tandem with Fenway Rezoning, which will be discussed at a BPDA-sponsored virtual meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. (Visit https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/ WN_6noASfO1TYq7V1ET2P86Ow to register for the Fenway Rezoning meeting.)

The BPDA expects to hold its first public meeting on the Transportation Action Plan in early 2023, said Schmidt.

“We anticipate the first public meeting this winter,” he said. “We’re aiming to do this as soon as we can, but we know the holidays are coming up.”

City Councilor Kenzie Bok, whose office co-sponsored the Oct. 25 meeting with the BPDA, said, “We need to zoom out and think about the neighborhood. It makes sense to pause as a community and have conversations not led by developers…to talk about how to make the Fenway function.”

Councilor Bok said funding for the Transportation Action Plan came via the developer’s mitigation for the 109 Brookline Ave. project.

Fenway Community CAC member Freddie Veikley pointed out that the Transportation Action Plan doesn’t take into account DCR’s completed study of Agassiz Road and said she “wants to see it elevated to the first batch of priorities.”

CAC member Rich Giordano lamented the timing of the Transportation Plan as “the horse is already out of the barn,” with so many projects in neighborhood now under development and in the pipeline.

In response to Giordano’s concern that the Transportation Action Plan wouldn’t align with the goals of the MBTA and its Better Bus Project, Michael Moran, transit team director for the BTD, said the Action Plan team would be working closely with the T to ensure that the #55 bus route is preserved, as well as to improve infrastructure at street corners in an effort to facilitate T service.

Moreover, Moran said the Transportation Action Plan would also take into account other transportation providers, such as the MASCO shuttle service to Longwood.

Schmidt added that the Transportation Action Plan would also consider “surge traffic,” which occurs for games and concerts at Fenway Park, as well as for concerts at the new MGM Music Hall at Fenway.

(Moran said the BTD and other partners are also looking at the  possibility of expanding the T’s nighttime transportation service, which would be co-sponsored by Boston and other municipalities, “but nothing  is concrete yet.”)

Despite its omission as one of the target areas, Schmidt said Boylston Street would be included in the Transportation Action Plan as well.

“We will incorporate that and other [streets] into the Analysis Area to understand all  the traffic coming in on really important corridors into the neighborhood,” said Schmidt, who added that “emergency access (for ambulances into the Longwood Medical Area) will be an important part of the design.”

CAC member Tim Horn said this latest process “seems like déjà vu all over again,” coming nearly 20 years after the completion of a $1 million rezoning plan for the Fenway, which has still yet to be implemented.

The current Transportation Action Plan should look at the persistent problem of “gridlock” in the neighborhood, however, said Horn, while “really focusing on where impacts happen.”

Horn inquired where the money to implement the Transportation Action Plan would come from.

Schmidt relied, “We are trying to come up menu of things, some of those things could be funded and hopefully will be funded by developers…through mitigation.”

While there is no public-comment period for the Action Plan, public comments can still be submitted on it online at the BPDA’s project webpage at http://www.bostonplans.org/planning/planning-initiatives/fenway-kenmore-planning, or via email to Michael Sinatra of the BPDA at [email protected], or to Cyrus Miceli of the BPDA at
[email protected].

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