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Comments on the Seaport Square NPC, MEPA 14255-3/24/17

Comments on the Seaport Square NPC, MEPA 14255-3/24/17

March 24, 2017

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Office Analyst: Alex Strysky
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Gary Uter
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Comments on the Seaport Square NPC, MEPA 14255

Dear Mr. Beaton and Mr. Uter:

WalkBoston is pleased to submit comments on the revised Seaport Square project in the South Boston Seaport District.

We applaud the developer’s broad and thoughtful approach to creating a walkable and pedestrian focused sense of place. In particular, the new walking connection to Summer Street; the extensive, interesting and continuous connection to the harbor via Harbor Way; and the fact that the development is at the same grade with the rest of the Seaport District provide great opportunities to help transform the district into a lively part of the City.

Our comments are focused on several detailed design and management issues that we believe should be further considered as the project moves toward final development and implementation.

  1. We are very pleased that the proponent is providing an additional entrance to the Courthouse Silver Line station. This will provide weather-­protected access to transit and provide very convenient transit access for people walking in the area. We urge the developer to ensure that safe crosswalks are provided to the Silver Line station on Northern Avenue and on the nearby intersecting streets -­ Marina Park Drive and Boston Wharf Road -­ two cross streets that are not precisely aligned with one another. The crosswalks should serve desire lines for walkers going to or from the station.
  2. Several of the key pedestrian crosswalks that will serve the project require further attention to pedestrian safety.
  • The lane widths shown on Figures 1-­35 and 1-­36 show that Congress Street and East Service Road will have overly wide 12’ and 15’ travel lanes. The un-­‐signalized pedestrian crosswalk on Congress Street is 70’ wide and we believe that substantial safety measures are needed to make this a safe place for pedestrians, in particular because many of the vehicles using this street will be coming from or heading toward I-­90, a situation that causes drivers to think that they are in a higher speed situation. Among the measures that should be considered are: addition of a traffic signal, narrowing the lanes and the crossing distance, and addition of a raised crossing.
  • The diagrams of other streets show 10.5 – 11’ foot lanes. We urge the proponent to work with the City to shrink all lanes to 10’ or 10.5,’ which the City’s Complete Streets Guidelines suggest as a reasonable width for an urban street.
  • At the edge of the project, a crossing of Summer Street to connect Seaport Square with the BCEC is absolutely essential. This crosswalk must be fully protected by a traffic signal. We believe that a gracious and safe pedestrian crossing of Summer Street will be important to the financial success of Seaport Square in addition to fulfilling the needs for a walker-­‐centric design.
  • No signals are provided for five pedestrian crossings of Northern Avenue. While this may be viewed as a slow-­‐moving street, great care should be taken with the design to ensure that all the crossings are safe for pedestrians, with minimal crossing distances and street designs and parking management that ensure that pedestrians waiting to cross can be seen by approaching motorists.
  • It is noteworthy that signalized crossings are added along Seaport Boulevard at pedestrian crossings between Farnsworth Street and the Harbor Shore Drive pedestrian way, between Thompson Street and Fan Pier Boulevard, and at the important pedestrian crossing where the Summer Street–to-­‐harbor pedestrian way intersects the Seaport Boulevard and also leads to the new entrance to Courthouse Station on the Silver Line.
  1. The shadow conditions in the project area suggest that the proponent will need to make special provisions to make the pedestrian zones comfortable during colder parts of the year. The developer might look to some of the work highlighted by WinterCities (http://wintercities.com/home/about/) for ideas on this topic.
  2. The proposed design for Seaport Boulevard as shown in Figure 1-­6 does not yet accomplish the goals for a truly walkable urban district. Except for a partially widened median strip, the roadway appears to have few distinctions from the existing conditions. Among the measures that should be considered for Seaport Boulevard are:
  • Narrow lanes and frequent raised crossings to slow traffic
  • Pedestrian scale lighting
  • Activated ground floor uses to give a sense of place for people walking along the street •  Pedestrian wayfinding
  • We also urge the proponent to consider whether a widened median is a desirable design feature to be continued throughout the project area. The landscaping with rocks, grasses and sculptures might truly make the boulevard distinctive. Landscaping features could also be added on the sidewalks, making the walking experience more pleasant.

All of the design features noted above could help shift the street from its existing character as an auto-­centric roadway to one that is attractive and safe for pedestrians.

  1. The proponent should consider walking conditions and amenities on the edges of the project as well as the center – people will be walking everywhere and the NPC is focused very heavily on the central Harbor Way. We urge that the many other streets be carefully planned as well.
  2. Because the project is so large and will create a significant portion of the Seaport District’s character, it seems to have the potential to provide a pedestrian and land use environment that can serve a diverse and multi-­‐generational population. We urge the developer to pay attention to the mix of uses, shops and restaurants and their pricing so that they are attractive to all members of the greater Boston community.
  3. Bicycle accommodations shown in the NPC do not seem to represent Boston’s current thinking about the need to provide low stress bicycle facilities. While this is not WalkBoston’s area of expertise, we believe that it is very important for the Seaport District to accommodate bicycles as well as possible.
  • For example, Figure 3-­13, Transportation Circulation Plan, shows bicycle lanes on Northern Avenue, Seaport Boulevard and Boston Wharf Road, without indicating connections to the City’s planned bicycle routes on Congress Street, Summer Street, the Northern Avenue Bridge, the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, and Seaport Boulevard east of East Service Road. Potential north-­‐south connections between these main routes are ignored. Possible bicycle lanes on Sleeper Street, Fan Pier Boulevard, Marina Park Drive or other connecting streets are not indicated.
  • Bicycle lanes on Seaport Boulevard are shown in ways the City is no longer supporting. Figure 1-­6 shows bicycle lanes adjacent to moving traffic, while the City is now working to provide protected bicycle lanes (between parked cars and the sidewalk) on arterials.
  • The crosswalk on Summer Street will also be used by cyclists on the Summer Street cycle tracks. Cyclists will be interested in crossing the street as they access the proposed development – particularly the critical and focal pedestrian path between Summer Street and the harbor. Special provision for cyclists should be included to preserve the safety of pedestrians throughout this potentially densely used walkway.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the project, and would be pleased to answer any questions that our comments raise.

 

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

 

Cc Yanni Tsipis, WS Development
Jonathan Greeley, BPDA
Vineet Gupta, Boston Transportation Department
Patrick Sullivan, Seaport TMA

 

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