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Environmental Notification Form (ENF) Alewife Brook Greenway MEPA #14431

Environmental Notification Form (ENF) Alewife Brook Greenway MEPA #14431

June 29, 2009

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Environmental Notification Form (ENF) Alewife Brook Greenway
MEPA # 14431

Dear Secretary Bowles:

WalkBoston is pleased to review the Alewife Brook Greenway Environmental Notification Form (ENF). We have found the proposal extremely interesting, as it expands the off-road network of trails and walkways that are so important to metro arearesidents for transportation and recreation. The ENF details improvements that will be made for both pedestrians and bicyclists on a corridor between Alewife Brook MBTA Station and the Mystic Valley Parkway that leads through Cambridge, Somerville and Arlington, and has connections to the Minuteman Pathway, the Linear Park/Community Path route into Somerville, the Mystic River parklands and future paths into Belmont and Watertown.

This is an extremely important piece of the regional trail network. We are happy to endorse its construction and even happier to realize that it may be constructed relatively rapidly as part of the national stimulus construction agenda.

In our review, we noted a few concerns of importance to pedestrians:

1. The proposed network does not provide for fully separated bicycle and pedestrian paths.
In two segments of the proposed improvement (1. Between the Mystic Valley Parkway and Broadway; and 2. between Henderson Street and Massachusetts Avenue) there appears to be a partial separation of bicycle and pedestrian paths. By contrast, there is only a single path between Broadway and Henderson Street and between Massachusetts Avenue and the MBTA Alewife Station. This will result in an effective capacity of two 10’-wide paths in the areas of separated paths and only one 10’-wide path in the other parts of the corridor. We are concerned about the safety of pedestrians in portions of the corridor where the capacity is limited. In those areas, consideration should be given to a wider cross-section on the path to accommodate potential demand.

2. The proposal does not indicate whether there will be signage to can foster safe walking. Pedestrian safety in mixed walking and cycling traffic can be an issue of concern, depending on the volume of traffic that uses the paths. While we would prefer separate facilities that are clearly designated as such, it does not appear to be feasible throughout the entire corridor. We therefore suggest that signing and warnings be provided to make the route safe for all users. This might include, for example:

  • Lane separation lines for the north and south directions.
  • Signs warning pedestrians to stay to the right of the path.
  • Signs advising cyclists to ring a warning bell as they approach pedestrians from behind.
  • Route signs designating a cyclist trail along the paths that abut Alewife Brooke Parkway.

3. The Boardwalk parallel to Alewife Brook Parkway has the potential for becoming a bottleneck, as it accommodates all path traffic in a narrow corridor. The boardwalk overlooks and is cantilevered over the river in the section extending north of Henderson Street and is one of the most accessible portions of the pathways for nearby residents. It is also close to Dilboy Field, which has occasional special sports events. If the boardwalk accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists and is closely fenced on both sides, it has the potential for becoming heavily used and potentially unsafe for people on foot. Would it be possible to widen the boardwalk to at least 12 feet in this location?

4. Seating and observation areas should be maximized.The path promises to be a very pleasant route. Many people will want to sit occasionally along the route, and children, among others, will be interested in closely examining the stream.

5. For the security of people who are using the path lighting may be appropriate. Lighting of the paths would extend their usefulness to walkers and cyclists in evening hours and in fall and winter.

6. Crosswalks may be needed in several locations. Near the Dilboy Park baseball diamonds, a fence opening and curb ramp have been provided that appear designed to help people cross Alewife Brook Parkway. The addition of a crosswalk in this location would be appropriate. Other crosswalks should be examined to cross Alewife Brook Parkway at Massachusetts Avenue, at Matignon Road, at Powder House Boulevard (two curb ramps), and at Broadway. For continuity of the path network, a Mystic Valley Parkway crosswalk should be considered at the north end of this project.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to provide comments on the ENF. Please let us know if you have any questions or need further detail.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Cc Dan Driscoll, DCR Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner

Westwood Station Comment Letter

Westwood Station Comment Letter

October 24, 2007

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
MEPA Office
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Westwood Station,
University Avenue, Westwood, MA
EOEA # 13826

Dear Secretary Bowles:

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on the FEIR for Westwood Station. We are commenting because of concern about the pedestrian connections to this site. We are especially interested in commenting on the progress made since the DEIR in incorporating pedestrian facilities and concerns into the proposal.

As the FEIR points out, the existence of superb access to both local and intercity rail service makes the site a great opportunity for a mixed-use transit-dependent community. In this community, pedestrian facilities will be of the utmost importance to create a significant town center for new and existing residents of the region.

The scale of the proposed development is so large that there are challenges to making it safe and convenient for pedestrians. The total development program for Westwood Station is approximately 5 million square feet:
• 1,348,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space located from the MBTA station through the large commercial area south of Rosemont Road. This includes five or six multi-story buildings with ground-floor retail, with smaller scale retail between the larger stores and parking garages on the surrounding streets. The development encompasses more retail square footage than the South Bay Plaza in South Boston, Natick Collection (formerly Natick Mall), North Shore Plaza and Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, South Shore Plaza in Braintree, or Burlington Mall.
• 1,295,000 square feet of residential uses (1000 housing units)
• 328 hotel rooms
• 1,490,000 square feet of office space
•11,985 parking spaces – 600 for residences, 3676 for offices, 7709 for central commercial

Summary Observations

  • The site is isolated from its surroundings and principal access will be via car, with a small proportion by train. Access to abutting neighborhoods is not improved by the project.
  • The real main street of the project is Westwood Station Boulevard because vehicular access to and within the site is principally by car.
  • The development has three distinct districts each representing different opportunities for pedestrian activity and safety. We have examined several of the indicators of walkability for the project as a whole and for the three areas individually.
    – The north end of the project – the area between the MBTA Route 128 Station and Rosemont Road, east of Westwood Station Boulevard – is a mixed use shopping/housing/ hotel/office district that includes virtually all of the proposed housing units, two office structures, two hotels, street-level shops, and most of the usable public open space (the Common, the Promenade and the Meadow.) This is the most pedestrian-friendly district.
    – The south end of the project – between Rosemont Road and Harvard Street, east of Westwood Station Boulevard – is a more traditional “big box” mall, with large sites for retail establishments, separated by parking areas and garages. There are a fair number of small street-level retail units along Market Street, the central pedestrian way.
    – The west side of the project between Westwood Station Boulevard and the adjacent residential area – is an area of office buildings backed by landscaped buffering space between the development and the adjacent community.
    – Both the south and west districts could be improved gradually in keeping with the observed market for mixed-use development and on-site pedestrian needs.
  •  From a large scale transportation perspective, it would be desirable to have the dense office uses near the station, and not west of Westwood Station Boulevard where they are not within easy walking distance of the station. For example, if the garages adjacent to the hotels had office use above them (or parking below grade), the office use would in fact be transit and pedestrian friendly. The currently planned location for significant office use will generate a great deal of traffic for a use that could be served by transit and contribute to the pedestrian life of the Market Street area.
  • Sidewalks should be provided along all streets. Design standards for all pedestrian facilities should be clearly articulated.
  • Recreational walking facilities should be expanded and made into a system useable for jogging, strolling and biking.
  • Walking facilities should be used to increase transit use to reduce vehicular traffic.

Walkability analysis

1. Access to and through the site

  •  Only a small proportion of the daily traffic into the project area is anticipated to be on foot (excluding drivers accessing a building on foot after parking). Most of the walkers will be coming from public transit connections or the MBTA station at the north end of the project. Few walkers are anticipated from abutting neighborhoods.
  •  Westwood Station Boulevard is the real main street of the project. It is the principal connection to local streets and the expressway network, and will carry the lion’s share of vehicular traffic. The large-scale uses in the project – the big box stores and the office buildings – front on the boulevard, while the smaller retail stores front primarily on Market Street. The boulevard design capacity encourages traffic to use it for access throughout the site.
  • The design emphasis on Westwood Station Boulevard may afford a bypass of the north end of the project with its shops and attractive pedestrian environment. The five street access points from the boulevard into the project encourage drivers to use the boulevard as the major spine of the site, with Market Street being only the first of several access streets.

2. Pedestrian amenities

  • Throughout the project the proponent has worked toward a pedestrian scale design, with shorter blocks, narrow streets, pedestrian-oriented buildings and street furniture. Because of the design of each district, the results vary in terms of pedestrian safety and the encouragement of walking.
  • At the north end of the project land uses are integrated in an intentional mix to create a vibrant and interesting area for pedestrians who are residents or visitors. Residents, employees and visitors can walk to transit, local shops, restaurants and nearby offices. Connections are easy to make, because of the relatively short distances (1500 feet or less). More pedestrians might be attracted by a civic use of some kind such as a branch library with meeting rooms.
  •  At the south end of the project, only retail uses are included. There is a significant orientation toward open parking lots facing Westwood Station Boulevard – a traditional big box zone. An attempt has been made to bring pedestrians into the district where it abuts the shopping/housing/hotel/office area by providing a two-sided row of relatively small-scale retail uses along Market Street.
  • At the southernmost end of the project site, the big box layout is most pronounced, with a grouping of three big box retail outlets arranged around a parking area abutting the intersection of Westwood Station Boulevard and Harvard Street. Market Street connects with this area but turns into a roadway for parking access in front of the big box stores. In general, this will not be a pedestrian-friendly area; people who drive here to shop will likely be strolling through parking areas rather than along the central avenue.
  •  The western portion of the project is a single use office area with large garages and no real provision of pedestrian scale environments.
  •  Traditional pedestrian amenities such as street furniture (e.g., benches, pedestrianoriented street lights, public washrooms, etc.) should be included where possible and not only in areas where pedestrian traffic is expected to congregate. Along all transit routes, the proponent should consider covered waiting areas for passenger pick-up, with shade from hot sun and protection from rain.

3. Pedestrian network connectivity (how well sidewalks and paths are connected, and how directly pedestrians can travel to destinations).

  • The overall project layout features a grid of streets and sidewalks with frequent cross streets, making access on foot reasonable. The only dead end streets are lead directly to destinations – the train station and the Common. Widths of streets throughout the project are principally 1-lane in each direction, except for Westwood Station Boulevard which has 2-lanes in each direction with additional lanes for turning movements.
  • The east-west pedestrian connections have been designed to aid in crossing Westwood Station Boulevard. These connections should be well marked and signed and include signals with pedestrian phases.
  •  The Common and the Promenade have been introduced as a connected set of civic spaces. These will serve the best mix of uses in the project: offices, small retail stores, and upper floor residences all within short distances of one another.

4. Design standards for sidewalks, street crossings, paths

  •  The overall project features sidewalks along both sides of the street. However, design standards for both streets and sidewalks reflect a high-volume automobile orientation. On all streets except Westwood Station Boulevard, turning radii are much too expansive given the intent to serve slow-moving traffic. Turning radii that are too large encourage higher speeds, add to pedestrian crossing distances, remove waiting areas of sidewalk and interfere with safe pedestrian crossings.
  • The project should include universal design features (transportation systems that accommodate special needs, including people using wheelchairs, walkers, strollers and hand carts).
  • Where possible, sidewalks might be partially covered – perhaps awnings along the fronts of retail spaces – for protection of walkers during inclement weather.
  • North End – sidewalks appear to be wider here than elsewhere in the project, according to the “Proposed Internal Roadway System” map. This suggests that pedestrian traffic is anticipated to be higher here than elsewhere. Wide sidewalks also allow more space for pedestrian amenities (seats, lighting, etc.) and landscaping.
  • South End – it would be useful to see the design details for sidewalks in this area. From the “Proposed Internal Roadway System” map, it is unclear if the design includes wide sidewalks and favors pedestrian movement and safety.
  • West Side – The bicycle-pedestrian path on the west side of Westwood Village Boulevard is set back from the street. On the east side of the boulevard, sidewalks are narrow and directly abut the automobile lanes. A divider between the street edge and the sidewalk would be desirable here, both to encourage walking and to make it safer.

5. Walking Safety

  • The overall project makes few distinctions between categories of traffic allowed on proposed streets. For example, the proponent should designate truck routes (Westwood Station Boulevard and University Avenue appear to serve the major truck needs). Truck traffic should be discouraged from Market Street and other local thoroughfares – anywhere extensive pedestrian traffic is anticipated.
  • Proposed intersection traffic controls and their effects on pedestrian movement should be indicated. Signals located on site roadway intersections should include pedestrian phases and countdown signals to indicate how many seconds are left in the walk phase. Traffic controls might be needed for mid-block pedestrian crossings.
  • Traffic calming would help protect pedestrians. Mention has been made of raised intersections to slow traffic. Speed limit signs should be placed throughout the development, and where possible, should be set for low speeds. Streetscape improvements such as lighting, an extensive tree canopy and on-street parking can also make a street more conducive to walking and lead to slower-moving cars.

6. Recreational walking

  • While the project includes sidewalks and recreational paths leading into adjacent open space, a network of paths is not created. The proposal for a walking/jogging/biking trail along Westwood Station Boulevard could be part of a larger jogging/strolling trail connected via Harvard Street or Canton Street to University Avenue. This would make a large loop (a mile or more) for residents and on-site employees.
    • A trail connection is proposed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation between the Route 128 Railway Station and Royall Street in Canton, which leads to the Blue Hills Reservation. Construction drawings of the trail will be prepared by the 5 proponent, with construction to await final design and construction of the I95/I93/128 interchange. An endowment to operate the trail would be extremely beneficial.
  • A canoe access site to the Neponset River is near the southern end of Westwood Station. There appears to be limited access to the site on foot. Perhaps there can be an extension of on-site trails into this area.
  • Paths alone cannot provide the level of exercise provided by outdoor playing facilities. The nearest recreation and sports facilities are nearly a mile away at K-5 Downey School, where there is a baseball diamond, tennis courts and a soccer field. On-site, the principal recreation facilities are paths at the Meadow and a dog-walking reservation. Adding a path network and recreation facilities would be helpful and would encourage walking and physical activity.
  • Sites west of Westwood Station Boulevard may offer some opportunities for additional recreation – space for a ball diamond, courts for tennis, basketball, public gardens, paths for strolling or nature walks, or a jogging track. This space could serve both the residential community and adjacent office employees.
  • Additional recreation facilities could be located at the Meadow if they did not interfere with the protective area around the wellhead.
  • A playground could be added in the Meadow, the Common or the Promenade for shoppers’ children or for families with children living in nearby housing units.

7. Public transit

  •  Pedestrian access between the development and the MBTA station must be encouraged. However, given the size of the project, especially its great north-south length, internal transit will be needed to encourage arriving at the site via longer-distance transit and then walking around portions of the site. For shopping, the large stores at the southern end of the development are almost too distant for significant pedestrian traffic from the residential/retail/office/hotel areas. The farthest stores are more than 3,000 feet from the MBTA station – a 20 minute walk and a distance that may be unattractive for shoppers on foot. The proponent has indicated that it will provide a shuttle bus service, equipment and a maintenance facility. A commitment to operation of shuttle bus services on a permanent basis would be appropriate.
  • The proponent suggests shuttle bus service with shelters that display real time bus arrival times and support safe and efficient use of non-automobile transportation. This would be a welcome level of transit information.
  • Bus stops should be provided on all routes, signed to preserve space for the vehicles to pick up passengers at shelters.

8. Sidewalk connections

  • The proponent has committed to building sidewalks on both sides of all streets to be built or reconstructed. This should include the portions of the existing University Avenue that abut properties to the east that are not included in the proposed development site.
  • It would be useful to know the proposed dimensions of the sidewalks, and documentation should include proposed cross-sections and landscape and lighting design of all streets, sidewalks and rights-of-way.
  • Pedestrian facilities are largely self-contained within the project site. There are few nearby residences within walking distance and the design seems to assume that access from nearby neighborhoods will occur only by auto. At a minimum, sidewalks should allow pedestrians to walk into the project along the Blue Hill Drive entrance. Other connections into the abutting neighborhood would be desirable.
  • Pedestrian access directly to the canopied platform of the MBTA railroad station is essential. Details of the proposed connection and the effects that the reconstruction of Greenlodge Street should be provided.
  • Preferential parking for carpools, vanpools and Zipcars should be provided in locations convenient for users, who are likely to be carless residents or employees. Signs on sidewalks should indicate where the vehicles are located.

9. Encouraging pedestrians

  •  The proponent should institute an active walking encouragement program. This could include maps of the site that are made available at many locations. It could also include transportation access guides to give concise information for accessing a destination by walking, cycling and public transit, and facilities and services for people with special mobility needs.
  • One of the real tests of pedestrian-friendly design of a residential proposal could be “Can you live here without a car?” Does the area provide for all resident needs, such as shopping for groceries, access to school, work, and recreation? Does the site provide sufficient access to transportation, whether train, shuttle bus, Zipcar, taxi, sidewalk or path? Are there supportive transportation management aids such as the guaranteed ride home that make movement efficient at all hours?

10. Toward full build out

  • Phase I of the development is scheduled to include all of the retail uses, half of the residential units, the hotels and one office building.
  • North end. Build out of this area will be almost complete at the end of Phase I. The exception will be the Meadow residential units that await Phase II. It will be critical that essential retail establishments are present to serve the 500 residential units on-site.
  • South end. Build out of this area seems more difficult. The big box stores at the southernmost end of the site may be readily built, but the midsection of the area is less well defined. This area, with its small stores fronting Market Street, could be the experimental portion of the development, evolving in accord with feedback from the fully built-out residential/office/hotel community in the north end of the project. If the market holds, it might be possible to incorporate residences above the retail units along Market Street, or office uses that are planned west of Westwood Station Boulevard. This might aid in removing issues caused by siting residential structures that negatively affect the well field at the Meadow.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this document. Please feel free to contact us for clarification or additional comments.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report Osborn Hills

Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report Osborn Hills

January 22, 2007

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, MEPA Office
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report Osborne Hills, Salem, MA

EOEA # 13965

Dear Mr. Bowles:

WalkBoston is delighted to have the proponent of Osborne Hills in Salem respond positively to our comments on the ENF for this project. After addressing certain comments satisfactorily in the DEIR, the proponent has modified aspects of the plan to incorporate these suggestions.

We would like to take this opportunity to review our comments and refine the observations in view of the ENF responses from the proponent. We request that the proponent respond to these issues as described below:

 

A.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 1 in the ENF has been satisfactorily answered. The proponent will be constructing sidewalks on both sides of all internal roadways – a commendable and very useful incorporation of physical facilities that will provide significant safety and convenience for pedestrians living in the community. We are very happy that this change was made by the proponent.

B.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 2 in the ENF suggested that on-site trails currently planned to be dead end should loop back into the path network. There are three such locations: Two are in the northeast corner of the site and connect to the site boundary and dead end there. A third loops into and through the grounds around the Water Storage Tank, ending at the site boundary. We continue to think it would improve the project to do so.

C.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 3 in the ENF referred to trail connections between the on-site trails and paths or sidewalks outside the property. No connections are indicated, although we remain hopeful that, at minimum, a pedestrian connection might be feasible at the site boundary where a proposed roadway ends in a cul-de-sac that abuts the end of Barcelona Avenue.

D.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 4 in the ENF has been satisfactorily answered. The proponent will use the irregular site topography to make trails interesting and challenging.

E.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 5 received a response that is discouraging. WalkBoston had hoped that on-site resident children might be able to walk to school – a feature that many suburban communities do not encourage. The response indicated that walking to school could not be accomplished because busing was likely to be available. Furthermore, Marlborough Road would have to be crossed by the children and the adjacent neighborhoods there are no sidewalks. We would hope that, the sidewalks being produced for the proponent’s site may show the way toward a neighborhood sidewalk network that allows children to walk to school.

F.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 6 did not receive a response in the DEIR. It suggested that the proponent try to show all pedestrian connections on the map as “actual” proposals rather than “potential.” The DEIR shows pathways along the west property line and a path connection at the northeast corner of the site as “potential” additions to the network. Both would add significantly to the ultimate network of paths and should be included in the build-out of this plan.

G.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 7 in the ENF has been satisfactorily answered. Small footbridges will be constructed as needed for wetland crossings.

H.   WalkBoston’s comment no. 8 in the ENF has been satisfactorily answered. The utility corridor is not a good alignment for walking paths.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this DEIR. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Chestnut Hill Square Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report

Chestnut Hill Square Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report

January 5, 2007

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
MEPA Office
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Attn: Bill Gage

RE: Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report
Chestnut Hill Square
200 Boylston Street, Newton, MA
EOEA # 12928

 

Dear Mr. Bowles:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Chestnut Hill Square in Newton, MA. The proposal will have significant impacts on future circulation in and near several malls and residential towers on Route 9, an essential regional artery. We conclude that the pedestrian aspects of the proposal may play an extremely important role in alleviating congestion.

We are pleased that the project proponent has made so many substantial efforts to integrate pedestrian facilities into the project. In general, we think it is a promising basis for a more complete pedestrian network on the site – one that draws its neighbors together. In addition, we have several concerns about the project which are described below:

• Assessing the market for walking in the area

• Encouraging nearby residents to walk

• Providing a comprehensive network of pedestrian pathways

o The Florence Street frontage

o The west boundary of the property

o The east boundary of the property

o The Route 9 frontage

o Interior walkways

• Integrating access to public transit

• Assuring construction of pedestrian bridge over Route 9

• Establishing sidewalk construction standards

 

Potential Walkers In The Area

The site of Chestnut Hill Square is one with substantial potential for walk-in customers from nearby residential districts (within a 1000’ radius or 2-3 city blocks). Transportation policy and wise management would suggest that local residents should be encouraged to walk these short distances, rather than being required to drive such short distances because pedestrian infrastructure is lacking. Short very local trips add to the total number of vehicles on-street, exacerbating congestion that could instead be alleviated by pedestrian connections to nearby sites.

Within a 1000-foot radius of the site (less than . mile!), are high-density residential towers, townhouse developments and single-family homes accounting for more than 1,700 units.

Collectively, these units have a population of about 2,600 people (assuming an average occupancy of 1.5 persons/unit). These potential customers are within very convenient walking distance of the proposed retail development, and may readily be interested in walking access if it is encouraged. Assuming .5 trips/day/unit, if only half of these trips were made on foot, it could mean a reduction of more than 850 daily vehicle trips.

 

Attracting Walkers to The Site

For the many nearby residents to walk to the site, a network of pedestrian facilities is essential, as is pointed out in the FEIR. Even with the infrastructure in place, these potential customers will need persuasion to walk to the center – to overcome ingrained driving habits and to be persuaded to try out the new walking routes. Specific walking encouragement could take the form of publicity about the site’s walkability, offers of free delivery services (for people who purchase more than they can comfortably carry), sales of grocery carts, walking clubs based at the grocery store (or other retailers), or the provision of walking maps showing the pedestrian routes. Not only will walking help alleviate congestion, it may be an important marketing tool highlighting the convenience of the site.

 

A Comprehensive Network of Walkways

The FEIR states that sidewalks and pedestrian promenade areas will be provided along all roadways within the site. (p. I-13, Section 6.2.1. and IV-24, Section 5.2.4.2.) Yet the Illustrative Site Plan (Fig. I.1-2) and the Pedestrian/Bicycle Circulation Diagram (Fig. II.1-7) show sidewalks only in certain areas: along Boylston Street, along Florence Street, and in front of the entrances to the retail areas on both sides of the central east-west street. In addition a second-level walkway is proposed, (as diagrammed in Figs. I.1-2 and II.1-7) to supplement access from sidewalks at the lower level.

The on-site pedestrian network should include sidewalks along all roadways within the site, and all of the sidewalks should be of adequate widths. The widths may vary, depending ontheir intended uses. Considerable thought has been given to the retail-pedestrian precinct, where sidewalks are wide, reflecting the greatest concentration of outdoor pedestrian traffic on the site. Elsewhere it is unclear what sidewalk standards can or will be met.

Sidewalks are to be constructed so as to be flush with all garage entrances (p. I-13, section 6.2.1). We are pleased that this standard will be followed in the project.

The following sidewalks should be added to the site design:

West boundary road (abutting the Capitol Grille and the rear parking lot.) A proposed roadway provides access between Route 9, the garages and the loading areas, but does not extend all the way from Boylston Street to Florence Street (a paved area is provided for emergency access only). A missing pedestrian link along the west boundary is a full connection between Florence Street and Route 9. This would be a convenient way for pedestrians to reach Route 9 if there is to be a pedestrian crossing at the at-grade signalized intersection between this site and the Mall at Chestnut Hill.

Sidewalks on the east side of the site facing Milton’s, Barnes & Noble, and Avalon Bay. A roadway is proposed here, to extend from Route 9 to Florence Street, but part of it is to be used only for emergency access. Only a very short segment of sidewalk along it is diagrammed in Fig. 1.1-2 or Fig. II.1-7, yet a sidewalk here would form a major element of a full pedestrian network. It could serve people walking to the lifestyle food center and other retailers from Florence Street, as well as residents of Avalon Bay and residential areas near Hammond Pond Parkway and Heath Street. A gracious touch would be to provide abutting properties such as Avalon Bay Residences and Milton’s direct pedestrian access to this walkway. The Milton’s building is clearly visible from the site (it forms a visual terminus of the central plaza access to the retail areas), and a fence between properties without pedestrian access seems inappropriate.

Sidewalks on the north boundary of the site along Route 9. This is potentially the most difficult area for pedestrians. Sidewalks are in place along the Route 9 frontage between Hammond Pond Parkway and Florence Street. But, the heavy traffic on the roadway and the turning movements at numerous curb cuts make the environment unpleasant and threateningly dangerous.

• The entrances and exits for Chestnut Hill Square pose potential conflicts with pedestrians. The one-way inbound west entrance will serve significant traffic volumes into the site. Pedestrians following Route 9 should be able to cross when turning movements into the site are not permitted by the signal.

• The east entrance and exit location is somewhat more difficult, as it is presently proposed to be unsignalized. Eastbound entering and exiting traffic may not be able to see pedestrians on the Route 9 sidewalks.

• The mid-site exit onto Route 9 (abutting David & Co.) is one-way outbound to the highway, incorporating both a truck loading zone and vehicles exiting the site from the west parking garage access points. This exit has pedestrian connections on the west side with the potential for significant conflict with pedestrians. It is not shown to have any signalized intersections.

• There is a proposed new on-site lane parallel to Route 9 for a bus lane/stop for the project (Fig. II.1-7). This lane may have a conflict of uses – a bus lane/bus stop serving the site and an acceleration lane for traffic entering Route 9. Pedestrian access to the bus lane and stop appears to be by way of the mid-site exit described above.

• In summary, the difficulties facing pedestrians on Route 9 sidewalks support the concept of constructing the central plaza as an attractive alternative route for pedestrians.

• Sidewalk along Florence Street. Sidewalks are clearly included along Florence Street. They are interrupted by three driveways into the site, but seem appropriate for the setting. The Florence Street sidewalks connect to residences along the length of Florence Street (Heath Street in Brookline) from Hammond Pond Pkwy to Route 9. The street may become less safe and attractive for pedestrians if it becomes a bypass for Route 9.

Internal Walkways

The retail center of the site is the focus of proposed internal pedestrian ways. The internal walkways at the central plaza look potentially interesting and lively, connecting numerous retail outlets, and both the east and west residences. The buildings are not isolated from the world by vast parking lots, and the central plaza is about 500 feet long – slightly longer than a city block – walkable and easily comprehended by pedestrians. The space is complemented by existing buildings at either end, with the Milton’s store, backed by the Avalon Bay tower to the east, and the Capital Grille, backed by the high-rise Imperial Towers at the west.

This central space cries out for physical connections to the off-site buildings at either end. The proponent has indicated that conversations are underway with abutters to provide pedestrian links. (see p. II-6, section 1.4.3) We hope that this happens in conjunction with careful traffic controls on-site to ensure that the significant amount of site-generated traffic that may pass through the heart of the central plaza does not impede pedestrian travel. All traffic entering the site at the new signalized intersection from an eastbound direction and via the new turn lanes on westbound Route 9 will pass through the retail area eventually –primarily to and from parking areas. Traffic entering the site at the eastbound driveway from Route 9 can avoid passing directly through the pedestrian precinct.

In the DEIR, inhabitants of the Florence Street Residences appeared to have additional access through the interior of the adjacent parking garage into the retail areas via a second floor arcade. This connection is not shown on Fig. 1.1-2, and we hope that it will be provided. If available, this route would also be attractive to off-site residents coming to the retail areas, as a weather-protected walkway.

Integrating Public Transit Access

The addition of a bus stop at the site is very useful. As proposed, MBTA Route 60 would continue its present route to Langley Road, just past the new Chestnut Hill Square/Mall to the Chestnut Hill intersection on Route 9, and use the jughandle and signal as a u-turn location. The new bus stop should be coordinated with the bus stop on the opposite side of Route 9 (in front of the Mall at Chestnut Hill). This would help alleviate the need for transit riders to walk across Route 9 to reach either site.

The proposed shuttle service from the Green Line Station at Chestnut Hill is a valuable addition. This station is more than a mile away, and a shuttle would provide access for both employees and customers if provided on frequent headways. We hope that the proponent will work with area retailers to make the shuttle service a success.

Pedestrian Bridge Over Route 9

Since it was suggested by the proponent, the possible pedestrian bridge over Route 9 between this site and the Mall at Chestnut Hill has engendered great interest. The proposal was made to provide a thorough integration of the two malls on opposite sides of Route 9. It would expand the shopping opportunities available, in much the same way that Copley Plaza and Prudential Center malls are related via the pedestrian connection over Huntington Avenue. The combination of retail opportunities at the two malls would create a significant concentration of shopping to attract both regional and local residents. The bridge would eliminate the difficulties inherent in pedestrian at-grade crossings on Route 9. Even with a signalized intersection, this will not be a pedestrian-friendly location due to the speed and volume of traffic, and the width of the roadway. Getting the bridge built may be difficult. There seems to be little likelihood that public agencies will fund the construction. Therefore, the proponent should pursue the steps outlined and make efforts to ensure that the bridge is constructed.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this FEIR. Please feel free to contact us for clarification or additional comments.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner