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Garden Garage Project DPIR Comment Letter

Garden Garage Project DPIR Comment Letter

January 17, 2012

Geoff Lewis, Project Manager
Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201-1007

RE: Garden Garage Project DPIR

Dear Mr. Lewis:

WalkBoston is the Commonwealth’s leading advocate for pedestrians and safe walking. We work throughout the state encouraging walking, advocating for pedestrian improvements and working for design improvements. We have worked with over 65 communities throughout the state, helping residents and local government with pedestrian issues, safe routes to school, and safer street crossings.

The proponents of the Garden Garage Project have worked hard to include a singular emphasis on pedestrian access to and through the site. We are impressed that the barrier that the existing garage creates between the West End apartments and North Station will be removed. Its replacement with a series of pedestrian paths and a plaza abutting the proposed structures is very welcome as a measure to reinvigorate the pedestrian network in the area.

As the focus of a pedestrian network that will extend from the West End and across Lomasney Way/Nashua Street/Red Auerbach Way, the new project appears to enthusiastically attract walkers along the internal paths that were part of the original Charles River Park Project. Chief among these is the existing, wide Thoreau Path, which will be lengthened to connect directly into paths leading to North Station and toward the river. This is a welcome addition to the path and sidewalk network serving pedestrians. It brings a focus of this network right to the edge of Lomasney Way/Nashua Street/Red Auerbach Way.

We are concerned primarily about the ways in which pedestrians will be served by future pedestrian connections into and across this rather wide and busy intersection. There are two proposed pedestrian crossings that are of concern:

  1. The intersection of Nashua Street, Lomasney Way and Red Auerbach Way, at the northwest corner of the O’Neill Federal Building is at present unsignalized, and has a crosswalk that is perpendicular to the southeast side of Red Auerbach Way. Under the proposed plan, pedestrians accessing this crosswalk from the West End will be forced to follow three segments:
    A. The plaza sidewalks pointing toward North Station.
    B. A dogleg turn from the plaza, to follow Lomasney Way a short distance (which unfortunately involves crossing the two entrance and exit lanes at the mouth of the project garage) to get to this crosswalk.
    C. Another turn is required to cross the street without the protection of a signal.
  2. The intersection of Martha Road and Nashua Street may include a similar dogleg for walkers moving from the proposed plaza to the pedestrian crossing of Martha Road, where sidewalks along Nashua Street lead to the Charles River, the Suffolk County Jail and the present and future structures of Mass General Hospital. At this intersection there is an existing traffic signal, which may mitigate some of the safety implications for an increased flow of pedestrians. If a dogleg is included in these plans, crossing the mouth of the garage on this separate entrance/exit location, it will require careful design to make it safe for pedestrians.

The two street crossings are extremely important to the proposed uses of the paths and plaza in the proposed development. They already have considerable volumes of pedestrian traffic, and will grow substantially when this project is constructed. We suggest that the two crossings be given very careful design review and traffic management and traffic calming design to make sure that they provide a safe environment for the thousands of pedestrians who will use them each day.

Thank you for the opportunity to common on this important project. We think it is a good project that could be even more pedestrian-friendly with some modifications to surrounding traffic signals. WalkBoston will continue to work with the city on this issue and would be pleased to participate in a meeting to review the two crossings.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman                     Robert Sloane
Executive Director                   Senior Planner

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