Tag: Connect Historic Boston

Comments on Plans for the Connect Historic Boston project

Comments on Plans for the Connect Historic Boston project

March 12, 2014

William R. Egan, PE
Chief Civil Engineer
Boston Department of Public Works
Boston City Hall, Room 714
Boston MA 02201

RE: Comments on the current plans for the Connect Historic Boston project

Dear Mr. Egan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the most recent plans for the four projects within the Connect Historic Boston program – Commercial Street, Union Street (and the Blackstone Block), Joy Street and Causeway Street). We offer the comments below.

Commercial Street
Of the four projects, we feel that this project does not seriously affect walkers. The Commercial Street project has been carefully designed to incorporate cycle tracks into the existing street layout without affecting pedestrian access or sidewalk availability. We note that the current design provides visual and physical separation between bicycles and pedestrians along the new cycle track/sidewalk proposed on the harbor side of Commercial Street.

Union Street/Blackstone Block
The proposed improvements on Union Street appear excessively vehicle oriented. The proposed sidewalk along the Blackstone Block side of Union Street is intended to encourage pedestrianism and sidewalk cafes, but does not appear to have enough space to accomplish both goals. Thus pedestrians will be walking in the raised street with vehicles. This suggests the need for a very low speed limit on this block (5-10 mph).

The space being devoted to parking could be incorporated into the raised and combined street/sidewalk and used only by pedestrians. Movement by vehicles would not be impeded by enlarging the area intended for pedestrians. One lane should be sufficient for the vehicles that would use this street in the future, and would serve emergency vehicles, and not general traffic. Loading for adjacent businesses might be accommodated in a time-based method, such as that used in the Downtown Crossing shared streets – Washington, Winter and Summer.

The sharing of Union Street between vehicles and pedestrians should be reflected in signage. The shared street area should be signed as a ‘Shared Street” at the entrance to the street with a speed limit of 5-10 mph. Drivers are not being deprived of movement through the area, because they have an alternative parallel street – Congress Street – which is very close. The speed limit should also reflect that this area, bounded by historic buildings and a park, is a prime tourist district, where walkers may not be aware that vehicles are likely to be alongside as they walk from the park to Union Street businesses.

Joy Street
Joy Street is also to become a shared street, with the street raised to sidewalk level. Streetsharing by vehicles and pedestrians requires appropriate signage at the entrance to this street, such as a ‘Shared Street” sign with an accompanying speed limit of 5-10 mph. This is especially important in this densely settled residential area, where Joy Street is often used as a vehicular cut-through street from Beacon Street to Cambridge Street.

Causeway Street
Raised street crossings for pedestrians at the intersections of Canal and Haverhill Streets had long been a part of the planning. We think that their removal is a serious mistake for pedestrian safety. Thus, we offer other suggestions that might be incorporated into the plan to improve safety for walkers. These include:

  •  A right turn lane at Canal and Causeway Streets
    The potential for drivers leaving Canal Street northbound and turning left onto Canal Street appears difficult to resolve. To avoid this issue, 3” bumps in the center of the Intersection of Canal and Causeway have been proposed. We feel these bumps are potential tripping hazards for the walkers who will surge across this intersection during morning and evening commuter rail commuting times and before and after major events at the TD Garden. In large groups of people, many will simply not see the bumps and may fall on encountering them.

Another way to prevent left turns is to change the street geometry. A very tight, single lane right turn lane could be provided to direct northbound traffic onto Causeway Street. A bulbout on the west side of the Canal Street intersection where it meets the sidewalk could divert all vehicles to the right, and could include a rollover curb to permit fire engines to make the left turn in emergencies.


  •  Level crossing on sidewalks on each of the side streets
    All of the side street pedestrian crossings along Causeway should be raised to sidewalk level at the entrance to intersections. This would help to reduce speeds and assist in warning drivers to make only safe and permitted movements. A level crossing could be combined with the right turn lane suggested for the Canal Street crossing.


  • Canal Street intersection striped from corner to corner
    The volume of pedestrians crossing the Canal Street intersection is one of the largest in the city. Surge traffic from commuters and the attendees of TD Garden events suggests that the intersection needs significant protection for pedestrians. We urge the painting of the entire intersection (curb-to-curb in both directions) to indicate that pedestrians may cross safely anywhere within the intersection. Within this ultra-wide zebra crossing, a modification could be made by painting with a different color the route of the cycle track within the intersection.


  • Elimination of right turn on red at all Causeway Street intersections
    It is appropriate to have vehicular traffic in all directions stopped to permit walkers to cross safely and to prohibit any kinds of turning movements that might infringe on walking movements. For example, at Canal Street, forbidding right turns during pedestrian crossing cycles would help protect walkers.


  • Wider crosswalk between T station entrances on Haverhill Street
    The crosswalks on Causeway Street at Haverhill Street connect directly on both ends to subway access points. This crosswalk has the potential of attracting numerous pedestrians. The crosswalks should be enlarged beyond the standard widths to accommodate surge flows. • Cobble warnings Cobbles or other rough paving should be placed on the approaches to both the Canal Street intersection and the Haverhill Street intersection to warn drivers of pedestrian concentrations ahead. The cobble warnings should be supplemented with signs indicating that pedestrian crossings are ahead.


  • 20 mph speed zone
    The frontage along Causeway Street is about to become even more intensely used than at present. In addition to the rail commuters and event attendees, a very large development with millions of square feet and many new residents and workers is to be placed between the Garden and the front of the property. This intensely developed area will increase the pedestrian concentration at all intersections, but principally at the Canal Street crossing. Because of the many modes of transportation and the concentration of pedestrians at this location, the speed limit should be made a cautious 20 mph on Causeway Street for the safety of all.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.


Robert Sloane
Senior Project Manager

Boston: Connect Historic Boston Walking Map

Boston: Connect Historic Boston Walking Map

Over more than 300 years, Downtown Boston and nearby neighborhoods have been the site of many important historical events. Many buildings remain to illustrate that history. In this small area of about one square mile, distances are so short that many find it easy to cross the entire area on foot. There are also buses and subways which crisscross the area and can help you get to where you want to go. To find a special walking route, use this map to plan a visit to specific nationally-recognized historic buildings and sites, and a walk along streets of great character and charm. On your walk you will find a unique city with national and local history visible everywhere. Walk more – see more!

Click for “Connect Historic Boston Walking Map” PDF

Click for “Walk Boston’s Connect Historic Boston Walking map” on Google Maps