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Tag: Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Comments on Width of Northern Strand Community Trail

Comments on Width of Northern Strand Community Trail

February 6, 2019

To Kurt Gaertner
Land Policy and Planning Director
MA Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs

Mr. Gaertner,

Thank you for your continued efforts to develop the Northern Strand Community Trail from the Mystic River to Lynn. We are inspired by the leadership and dedication demonstrated by your team and Governor Baker, and we appreciate your extensive community outreach as the pathway is developed over this coming year.

We would like to comment on the inadequate width of the pathway, as it has been presented by the project team, as a contiguous 10’ width for the entire length. The standards set forth in AASHTO and MassDOT’s own separated path design guidelines recommend 10’ only on low-volume pathways, with a recommendation of 12’-14’ for paths with high pedestrian volumes. Based on current and projected usage of the pathway, we believe the Northern Strand Community Trail should adhere to the standard of 12’-14’, or even potentially exceed that, wherever possible. It is important also to note that these path standards do not take into account the emerging technologies of micro-mobility devices and electric bicycles, which will invariably be used for transportation purposes on the Northern Strand. This goal of widening the pathway is to mitigate conflicts between users, and to plan for the area’s expected growth and development that will bring more people out onto the path in the coming years. We believe that the pathway’s intention is to serve the community and provide safe recreation and transportation options, and thus we implore the EOEEA and the project team to widen the pathway.

The communities served by this pathway are dense residential and commercial areas. The communities of Everett, Malden, Revere, Saugus, and Lynn are cities and towns that are developing at an expected growth of more than 12% by 2040 (see: MAPC Population Growth Projections). By comparison, many other regional pathways are already strained in capacity due to their narrow designs, and we see issues of narrowness contributing to user conflicts on the Minuteman Bikeway, the Paul Dudley White Bike Path, and the Southwest Corridor. This pathway is also a crucial corridor for the East Coast Greenway, a contiguous route that connects 15 states with 3,000 miles of trails. We can assume the Northern Strand will receive heavy usage, and we must design and build accordingly to ourprojections.

(Population and Housing Demand Projections for Metro Boston:

http://www.mapc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/MAPC-MetroBoston-Projections_ExecSumm-1_16_14.pdf)

Further, as you have heard at every public meeting, the worry about conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians/joggers is a widely held concern. A wider pathway means a safer pathway, with more room for more people at varying speeds to maneuver and pass safely. We feel that a 10’ pathway is not sufficient to provide space for two-way walkers, joggers, strollers, and bicyclists to co-exist without conflict. Since safety is of paramount concern, especially as this pathway serves users young and old, we recommend widening the pathway to 12’-14’, or alternatively providing separate spaces for bicyclists and pedestrians/joggers where right-of-way allows.

We appreciate how the design and construction of the Northern Strand has a funding limitation set by the Commonwealth’s budget, and this may impact the width of the path by requiring less pavement as a cost issue. However, the cost of additional 2’-4’ of pavement at the onset of construction is considerably less than having to go back and widen the pathway after construction and landscaping has completed. Widening the pathway where possible on Day One only makes financial sense.

Lastly, we should expect the Northern Strand to be used as a commuter route, and thus will have users after dark during the months of October – March (since we live in the Northern Latitudes and the sun sets early in the evening). We ask the project team take into account lighting wherever feasible to provide safe passage for pathway users. Along this argument, we also acknowledge that lighting elements will eventually be installed along certain sections of the pathway, once enough people are using the pathway to provide a safe environment. Thus, we ask that the EOEEA and the project team install conduits for lighting during this initial construction of the pathway where lighting is expected to be installed in the future, to more easily facilitate and lower the cost of installing lighting later on.

We appreciate your consideration of these issues of wider pathway and lighting elements for the Northern Strand. We applaud your team and the leadership for supporting this impactful project, and we look forward to the benefits it will bring the region for better health and wellness, smart growth development, and sustainable transportation connecting these cities and towns.

Sincerely,

Galen Mook, Executive Director, MassBike

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston

Kristine Keeney, New England Coordinator, East Coast Greenway Alliance

Seaport Square Expanded NPC Comment Letter 11/1/17

Seaport Square Expanded NPC Comment Letter 11/1/17

November 1, 2017

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA 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 Expanded NPC, MEPA 14255

Dear Secretary Beaton and Mr. Uter:

Roughly 13 acres of the Seaport Square project remains to be developed. The remaining parcels primarily sit behind the major frontage of the project on Seaport Boulevard, are sandwiched between off-­ramps to the Harbor Tunnel approaches and reach from Summer Street to the water’s edge at Fan Pier. The expanded Notice of Project Change describes a project that is framed around the north-­south local streets that flank “Harbor Way,” a new and wide interior pedestrian street that will extend 5-­6 blocks between the Harbor and Summer Street.

1. The concept for Harbor Way is very strong. The major and continuous pedestrian street is planned and designed to encourage its use by large numbers of people. Harbor Way is intended to create the focus for a sort of ‘downtown’ for the Seaport District that will serve commuters, visitors and tourists. The success of Harbor Way is critical to attracting and retaining tenants and users of the corridor.

2. Generally, mid-­block crossings are provided for pedestrians.

  • At Congress Street the proposed mid-­block pedestrian crossing is protected by signalization, bump-­outs to narrow the crossing distance, and a refuge median.
  • At Autumn Lane, a privately owned minor street designated primarily for service vehicle access, the possibility of a platform or raised crossing has been mentioned.
  •  At Seaport Boulevard the pedestrian crossing is mid-­block and will be a fully signalized crossing.

3. At this time a mid-­block crossing of Summer Street seems to be missing from the plan and needs to be addressed.

  • We ask that the proponent work closely with the City and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) to plan for a major mid-­block pedestrian crossing at the end of Harbor Way, where it would logically cross Summer Street. We hope that the MCCA will be able to take on some of the responsibility for helping to plan and fund this mid-­block crossing, as its main entrance is only a long city block away and the Harbor Way is likely to form a major attraction for the visitors to BCEC events in the future.
  •  The City should be involved, as it is already programming a major reconstruction of the cross-­section of Summer Street from the Fort Point Channel up to Boston Wharf Road, a mere half-­block away from this proposed crossing. Continuing this improvement to the BCEC should be a major objective for development of the area. The Summer Steps at the terminus of Harbor Way should not be constructed until the mid-­block pedestrian crossing is laid out and programmed for construction.
  • A disappointing aspect of development along Boston Wharf Road is the existence of the very large Park Lot C owned by the U.S. Post Office Department, which abuts Summer Street, where Boston Wharf Road passes under it. This particular site, with difficult roadway access, is unfortunately situated so that improvements in connection with the construction of Harbor Way are unlikely, even though the mid-­block crossing that is so essential for the future success of Harbor Way at its terminus with Summer Street. Ownership and physical configuration of the site mean that the proponent, the City and the Convention Center Authority will need to work together to plan and build the mid-­block crossing at this location.

4. The anchor for the south end of Harbor Way has been left partially undefined. The proponent has designed the Summer Steps to take advantage of a 24’ grade change between the site and the level of Summer Street. A supplementary elevator is provided, and the steps have a ramp to be used by cyclists. A portion of the steps could also become the seating in a performance facility, aided by electronic connections and lighting to encourage its use. A generous setback between the bottom of the stairs and Congress Street will allow for staged performances. The two sites that flank the steps are loosely defined as office and a possible hotel, and include the possibility of a 650-­seat public performance space. Without development of the two sites, the Steps may not be feasible.

5. A strong anchor for the north end of Harbor Way appears somewhat elusive. Harbor Way ends at a pavilion that would mirror District Hall across the park known as Seaport Common. The building will house a stairway and elevator leading to its roof, which will be open to the public. The two lower floors will house the Mass. Fallen Heroes Mourning Room and perhaps a restaurant. Access to the waterfront will continue along the side of the building, leading to a street to the ICA building and the harbor’s edge. Thus the ICA and its waterfront area is the true anchor at the north end of Harbor Way. Access to the large, nearby Fan Pier Public Green (another possible anchor on the north end of Harbor Way) is indirect, and a diagonal trip across the proponent’s Common Park would complete a slightly different connection between Harbor Way and the waterfront. However, this kind of connectivity to the Fan Pier Public Green appears infeasible with the present plan for the Seaport Common pavilion.

6. Preservation of the pedestrian way between Seaport Boulevard and Northern Avenue should be central to planning of the north end of Harbor Way. The proponent has proposed that service and parking access to Parcel G will be via Northern Avenue which WalkBoston believes is an appropriate location. We believe that an alternative location for this access on Harbor Way (as proposed by others) would introduce very unfortunately add parking entrances and loading docks along this quiet and pleasant pedestrian way and transform it’s character. Harbor Way is designed as a special pedestrian space and parking and loading should not occur in the space, especially since reasonably convenient and accessible alternatives are easily available. We concur with the developer’s plan to keep Harbor Way free of these vehicular functions.

7. The streets flanking Harbor Way may pose challenges for successful pedestrian-­focused development. The proponent is committed to expanding the Harbor Way walking focus by lining two parallel streets with retail uses designed to appeal to pedestrians. Boston Wharf Road and the East Service road, parallel to Harbor Way, are proposed to be lined with retail and other public attractions. As the Harbor Way development blocks come on line, retail will be a major element to attract walkers into the district. It seems likely that retail will be somewhat slow to locate on either of the parallel streets until Harbor Way is successfully launched, a challenge in today’s low energy retail environment.

  • The East Service Road in particular may be difficult to develop as a retail spine. It will provide access to and from the Third Harbor Tunnel and I-­90 with connections into and through the Seaport District. Bicycle facilities have already been eliminated from the street because they were precluded by the many highway ramp links into the Interstate system. At the same time, pedestrian connections have been expanded with wider sidewalks, leading to an expanded retail area. Given the anticipated vehicular traffic on the street, retail activities seem unlikely in the near term, especially with the competition of the nearby Harbor Way with its robust pedestrian environment.
  • Pedestrian crossings should be explored at a mid-­‐block crossing of the East Service Road at Autumn Way to connect between Harbor Way and the so-­called M-­block development on the south side of East Service Road.
  •  Boston Wharf Road may attract retail uses, but will need to contend with the fact that this two-­way street provides major roadway access to the Seaport District and is likely to become a major access route for vehicles coming to the Harbor Way pedestrian spine. Sidewalks have been widened in anticipation of this evolution of the area.
  • Special attention may be needed at two locations on Boston Wharf Road. The first is the connection to Seagreen Park – Site Q – a park on the north side of the street, where a mid-­block pedestrian crossing is likely to be needed. Second, attention is being given to a through-­building connection further south to provide additional connections with Harbor Way, and it would be appropriate to evaluate whether a mid-­block crossing is warranted at this location.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the pedestrian environment at Seaport Square. We are happy to answer any questions you have about our comments.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman                                 Bob Sloane
Executive Director                               Senior Planner

Cc Yanni Tsipis, WS Development Jim Fitzgerald, BPDA Fred Peterson, MCCA Pat Sullivan, Seaport TMA

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

 

Comments on Dorchester Harborwalk

Comments on Dorchester Harborwalk

December 12, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: MEPA Office
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Environmental Notification Form for the Neponset River Greenway Segment 3 – MEPA #15286

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

The Neponset River Greenway is being constructed in several segments, each of which advances the goal of providing access along this regionally important waterfront. In this instance, the proposal will connect two existing walkways along Boston Harbor, with the ultimate goal of extending to the Neponset River walkways that reach the heart of Milton.

WalkBoston wholeheartedly support the proposal and commends DCR in its actions to further construction of waterfront facilities. We applaud DCR for its efforts to cobble together the essential connections to extend both the Harborwalk and the Neponset River Greenway. The walkway will offer an exciting experience, as it focuses on an area all of us have seen from the highway, and few have explored directly. The adjacent National Grid solar panels will be interesting to both children and adults and afford a point of interest unavailable along most pathways. We think the path will immediately become a remarkable highlight on the waterfront, attracting people to the new experience it will provide.

WalkBoston offers two suggestions that we hope DCR might still consider:

• Urban walking and running opportunities – Given the opportunities that the Greenway opens up for walking and running within the urban area, we suggest that DCR consider formalizing the running accommodation by including a soft surface trail adjacent to the paved path. This is particularly relevant because the path is located near neighborhoods that have the greatest need of facilities such as this for recreation.

• Width of the path – We note that the path is proposed to be built with a standard 10-foot width. We hope that the facility can be designed and constructed with adequate space to allow for future widening to provide adequate space for a mix of walkers, runners and bicyclists as its use grows over the coming year. DCR might consider an 11 – 12 foot width now to allow two side-by-side walkers or bicyclists to pass someone coming in the opposite direction.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project. Please feel free to contact us if there are any questions.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Comments on Neponset River Greenway Segment 3

Comments on Neponset River Greenway Segment 3

December 12, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: MEPA Office
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Environmental Notification Form for the Neponset River Greenway Segment 3 – MEPA #15286

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

The Neponset River Greenway is being constructed in several segments, each of which advances the goal of providing access along this regionally important waterfront. In this instance, the proposal will connect two existing walkways along Boston Harbor, with the ultimate goal of extending to the Neponset River walkways that reach the heart of Milton.

WalkBoston wholeheartedly support the proposal and commends DCR in its actions to further construction of waterfront facilities. We applaud DCR for its efforts to cobble together the essential connections to extend both the Harborwalk and the Neponset River Greenway. The walkway will offer an exciting experience, as it focuses on an area all of us have seen from the highway, and few have explored directly. The adjacent National Grid solar panels will be interesting to both children and adults and afford a point of interest unavailable along most pathways. We think the path will immediately become a remarkable highlight on the waterfront, attracting people to the new experience it will provide.

WalkBoston offers two suggestions that we hope DCR might still consider:

• Urban walking and running opportunities – Given the opportunities that the Greenway opens up for walking and running within the urban area, we suggest that DCR consider formalizing the running accommodation by including a soft surface trail adjacent to the paved path. This is particularly relevant because the path is located near neighborhoods that have the greatest need of facilities such as this for recreation.

• Width of the path – We note that the path is proposed to be built with a standard 10-foot width. We hope that the facility can be designed and constructed with adequate space to allow for future widening to provide adequate space for a mix of walkers, runners and bicyclists as its use grows over the coming year. DCR might consider an 11 – 12 foot width now to allow two side-by-side walkers or bicyclists to pass someone coming in the opposite direction.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project. Please feel free to contact us if there are any questions.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner