By Seth Daniel
Berkeley Street is no doubt a major gateway into the Back Bay and downtown areas these days, with thriving businesses and tourists trekking on foot, but the infrastructure has not kept up with the times, and many members of the community are waging a campaign of improvement.
The Ellis South End Neighborhood Association identified the brick sidewalks between Tremont and the State Turnpike Bridge as a major public safety problem and began some time ago advocating to make some improvements.
This year, David Crowley said, they were successful in getting the City to set aside the necessary funding to take on the project, which is now ongoing.
“We’re trying to improve the streetscape, which has been neglected over the years by the City,” he said. “There was some funding available to improve the sidewalk bricks, which were in tough shape. People had told us they had a difficult time walking there and some people said they had fallen. The repairs seem to be going pretty well and it’s a major improvement on the street.”
Already, the brick sidewalk repairs have been completed on the west side of Berkeley, and are currently under construction on the east side of the street. An additional piece of the project is adding handicap accessible ramps to the intersections.
Sam Chambers, liaison to the Mayor’s Office for the neighborhood, said he fully supported and advocated for the public works project.
“I think it’s a great project due to the fact that Berkeley Street is a gateway avenue for people coming into the South End from the Back Bay and other neighborhoods,” he said. “I wish to thank Public Works for quickly making these improvements to the streetscape and think the new sidewalks will only enhance the neighborhood.”
However, the project doesn’t end there, and probably an even more important part of the project (and expensive part too) is to get more and better lighting on the street.
Currently, Crowley – head of the public works committee of Ellis – remarked at how dark the stretch is despite the heavy foot traffic, the two hotels and numerous thriving businesses.
He noted that from Gray to Appleton Streets there are no streetlights at all, and from Tremont to Appleton there is only one streetlight. He added that the Bridge – which falls under state jurisdiction – has only one streetlight.
“That’s all just not up to today’s standards and it becomes a public safety issue,” he said. “The rest of the neighborhood has nice, acorn lighting…but for some reason that stretch of Berkeley Street has been forgotten…It’s bereft of lighting and it’s a busy, active street with many businesses and two hotels and a lot of tourists from around the world. It’s a relic of the 1950s.”
He did say, however, that they were very happy with the brick work, and believes that the cooperation there will lead to similar cooperation around the lighting problems.
Finally, Ellis is looking to initiate an Adopt-a-Tree program for organizations and local businesses on the Berkeley Street corridor. The hope is that companies, businesses and even residents might take charge of a street tree or two to keep it healthy and maintained.
The sidewalk improvements are expected to be done by the end of the year.