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Tag: placemaking

115 Winthrop Square PNF Comment Letter

115 Winthrop Square PNF Comment Letter

January 20, 2017

Casey Hines, Senior Project Manager
Boston Planning and Development Agency
Boston City Hall
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Re: 115 Winthrop Square PNF

Dear Ms. Hines:

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ leading pedestrian advocacy organization. We have reviewed the Project Notification Form for this project and believe that it will provide benefits to the economic strength and vitality of downtown Boston by replacing a dilapidated parking garage that has blighted the Winthrop Square neighborhood for decades. We also believe that there are several issues that require further evaluation and improvement.

1. The Great Hall that has been proposed has the potential to be an exciting gathering place that attracts people from both downtown and Boston’s neighborhoods. We urge that the Great Hall be open to the public 18 hours a day, 52 weeks a year and that it be given programming that goes well beyond a food and shopping court. The ground floor of the building (both as part of the Great Hall and also adjacent to the Great Hall) should have rooms and spaces for talking, working or observing. Programs to encourage use of the space will be essential. The proponent should clarify the plan for activating this space, including the types of programs and the agency or individuals who will be assigned the task of programming and managing the space. We urge the Proponent to provide a description of the mix of uses, the cost to users
(for events that are open to the public), and the anticipated intensity of programming that is to be provided in the Great Hall.

2. Because of its prominent, strategic location, the Great Hall will also be a walking connection between Federal and Devonshire Streets that adds to Downtown’s rich tradition of publicly accessible lanes and alleys. The balance between circulation space and usable public space should be carefully studied and described.

3. Wind studies of the building should identify its impacts on pedestrians using adjacent streets and sidewalks. Wind may also be a factor in the design of the Great Hall, where pedestrians and users of the space should be protected from gusts or periodic and protracted winds around the building.

4. Pedestrian scale lighting should be designed to enhance the usefulness and attractiveness of both interior and exterior portions of the building with attention to creation of a sense of place, traffic safety at street crossings and personal safety.

5. We urge the Proponent to explore building shapes, heights and orientations to reduce or eliminate shadow impacts on the Common and Public Garden.

6. We also urge the City and the Proponent to work with the many organizations and individuals who are deeply concerned that the project will set a precedent that allows shadow impacts on the Common and Public Garden. Prior to approval of the project, the City should describe permanent and binding protections for the Common and the Public Garden from further shadow impacts.

Thank you very much for your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc: Senator William Brownsberger
Senator Joseph Boncore
Representative Jay Livingstone
Representative Aaron Michlewitz
Representative Byron Rushing
City Council President Michelle Wu
Elizabeth Vizza, Friends of the Public Garden
Howard Kassler, Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay
Patricia Tully, Beacon Hill Civic Association
Greg Galer, Boston Preservation Alliance
Todd Lee, LightBoston
Kathleen MacNeil, Millennium Partners
Cindy Schlessinger, Epsilon Associates

Check out our new report – Walk to school? But how do I find the front door? Strategies for improving pedestrian safety through walkable campus design.” (Click for instructions to download PDF).

Walking rarely enters the conversation when new schools are planned. In fact, the regulatory and approval
processes focus on facilitating bus and automobile access to schools, and ensuring that there is sufficient
parking. Public meetings are usually dominated by those who complain about traffic volumes or inadequate
parking – not by those who seek a safe walking route to school. It happens in wealthy communities and low-
income communities alike. In most cases, it’s not that drivers are given priority over walkers, it’s that nobody
is thinking about walking. And that needs to change.

This report was prepared by WalkBoston for Mass in Motion, an initiative of the MA Department of Public Health.

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Check out our new report – Pedestrian Infrastructure: Strategies for improving pedestrian safety through low-cost traffic calming.” (Click for instructions to download PDF). 

Low cost fixes to calm traffic and enhance safety on municipal streets and state roads can be a great place to start, as they are likely to be adopted and completed sooner than more expensive projects, and can serve as catalysts for long-term change.

This report was prepared by WalkBoston for Mass in Motion, an initiative of the MA Department of Public Health.

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Weymouth: Making Safe Routes for Seniors

Weymouth: Making Safe Routes for Seniors

by Nicholas Bulens, Grant Writer & Researcher, Town of Weymouth

In the summer of 2014, WalkBoston partnered with the
Town of Weymouth to open a conversation between
municipal staff and older adults about creating a safer,
more attractive walking environment. The Safe Routes
for Seniors initiative was a true convergence of advocacy
and policy, resulting in a set of design guidelines and
program alternatives to better coordinate the town’s
capital planning process with greater walkability. The
initiative has helped springboard Weymouth toward a
healthier approach to community design.

Weymouth is a mature suburban community situated
about 12 miles southeast of Boston. The town has a
strong residential character with many attributes of a
walkable environment. Weymouth has four village centers, each featuring a mix of land uses that helps create
a sense of place for residents. It also has a diverse open
space network interspersed among many settled neighborhoods. There is also a good mix of transit services,
including commuter rail and bus, which help connect
Weymouth’s
people and places. However,
in spite of these
attributes, the
town has grown
increasingly
dependent on
the automobile
for transportation in the last 50 years. Simultaneously,
Weymouth’s population has aged and diversified to
where almost one in every four residents is over age 60.

Recognizing a need to analyze the built environment
from a healthy aging perspective, Weymouth received a
grant from the Massachusetts Council on Aging, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public
Health [MDPH], to conduct a senior pedestrian safety
study. Municipal staff collected data on Weymouth’s
housing, land use and pedestrian crashes. The data led
the town to identify four areas of need where seniors
could most benefit from improved walking conditions.

WalkBoston facilitated a public meeting between
municipal staff and an audience of over 30 older adults.
Residents raised important concerns about poorly
maintained sidewalks, obstructed lines of sight and distressed crosswalks. WalkBoston then hit the streets with
a diverse focus group of municipal staff, senior residents
and local businesspeople. A wealth of observations were
made, and ideas flowed freely between stakeholders.

Weymouth’s walkability investigation culminated in the publication of the Safe Routes for Seniors Design
Guidelines and Planning Report. WalkBoston introduced
municipal staff to new and innovative approaches to
streetscape improvements, including “lighter quicker
cheaper” placemaking, which could facilitate safer, more
frequent foot traffic by older adults in the town’s target
areas. Weymouth’s planning staff prepared the final
report to summarize the initiative’s findings and recommend design guidelines for town planning moving forward.

The Safe Routes for Seniors initiative has already led
Weymouth to take a number of steps toward enhancing walkability. For 2015, Weymouth’s Mayor Susan Kay
has committed $150,000 to sidewalk improvements and
indicated that she will budget up to $250,000 for the
same purpose each year thereafter. Plans are also under
way by municipal staff to develop a Complete Streets
policy and apply for certification under the MassDOT’s
new Complete Streets program. In addition, the town
has received a technical assistance grant from the MDPH
to develop a zoning action plan with the Pioneer Valley
Planning Commission [PVPC], a leader in the movement
to design healthier communities. The PVPC will advise
Weymouth on how to facilitate healthy eating and more
physical activity in the community through changes
to local zoning provisions, such as reduced parking
requirements and site plan review.

This article was featured in our Summer 2015 newsletter. See the full newsletter & past editions here.

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Comments on Allston I-90 Interchange/West Station

Comments on Allston I-90 Interchange/West Station

September 29, 2014

To: Patricia Leavenworth 
Chief Engineer
MassDOT Highway Division
10 Park Plaza Boston, MA 02116

Attn: Bridge Project Management – Project File No. 606475

Dear Ms. Leavenworth:

The Allston I-90 Interchange Improvement Project can bring a wide variety of benefits to the Commonwealth, City of Boston, and people who live, work, and commute in the area. I hope you will agree that this project is also an opportunity to advance important State initiatives including GreenDOT, the Healthy Transportation Compact, the bike/walk/transit Mode Shift Goal, and Environmental Justice policy.

That being said, our organizations are deeply concerned with several aspects of the current design and process: 

Topics of concern from our organizations and representatives:

  • MassDOT should completely integrate planning and construction of the relocated Pike at the same time as the new West Station.
  • Pike and rail routes should be decked over for future development and to give pedestrian, bicycle and bus access between North and South Allston.
  • A wide riverside park – called the Allston Esplanade – should extend between the BU Bridge and the River Street Bridge.
  • Where Soldiers Field Road is parallel to the Pike, it should be placed under the Mass Pike viaduct to allow widening the park strip along the Charles River.
  • The Pike viaduct should not be widened beyond its current 8 lanes where it would encroach on the Charles River parkland.
  • A mall with separate pedestrian and bicycle paths should extend across the project and into the Allston Esplanade.
  • MassDOT should have a long-term process of planning for the Mass Pike Relocation and West Station that involves residents and advocacy groups.

Thank you for your concern and willingness to review our comments, which are detailed in the next few pages. We look forward to working with in the future on this project and its important elements.

Sincerely,

Allston Village Main Streets
         Alana Olsen

Allston- Brighton Community Development Corporation
         Carol Ridge-Martinez, Executive Director

Allston Board of Trade
         Marc Kadish

Allston Civic Association
         Matt Danish

Allston/Brighton Bikes
         Galen Mook

Boston Bicyclists’ Union
         Pete Stidman, Executive Director

Charles River Conservancy
         Harry Mattison

Livable Streets Alliance
         Glen Berkowitz

MassBike
         David Watson, Executive Director

WalkBoston
         Wendy Landman, Executive Director

Residents of Allston:
Rochelle Dunn
Paola M. Ferrer, Esq.
Anabela Gomes
Bruce Houghton
Wayne Mackenzie
Rich Parr
Jessica Robertson

Details of our views on the MassDOT Turnpike and West Station projects:

MassDOT planning for the I-90 interchange area

A.     MassDOT should have only one planning process for the Mass Pike Relocation and the proposed West Station to fully integrate proposals for highway and track relocation and to maximize access to both the highway and commuter rail services.

B.     Access to West Station by all modes – rail and road, pedestrian and bicycle – and the transit headhouse, the main line and Grand Junction double tracks should be built in conjunction with the roadway project – not after it.

C.     A Project Team should be created to oversee highway, transit and land use planning for the area, and should include urban planners, architects, landscaping architects, and individuals with placemaking expertise. Project Team subcommittees such as a Design Advisory Group should be created to advise the larger team.

D.     MassDOT should encourage public involvement throughout the design and development process for the highway, transit and land use improvements, and all future involvement of citizens and professional advisors should be planned to meet at least monthly.

E.     The process of planning should be staffed and included as an expense item in the design and construction process for both the highway and the rail improvements.

Mass Pike Relocation

A.     Land that is currently Charles River parkland should not be used to build a wider viaduct for the Mass Pike or one that is closer to the river. Parallel parkland should be used only as a temporary, last resort for construction purposes and not for breakdown lanes for the Pike.  Designs for reconstructing the Mass Pike viaduct should include the plan for Soldiers Field Road to be fully relocated and rebuilt between the BU Bridge and the River Street Bridge.

B.     Slopes and clearances should be designed so that the highway will be reach the railroad grade at a point east of Babcock Street.

C.     The Mass Pike roadway should be designed so that it can easily be decked and decks should be built as part of the construction process. Deferring decking over the Pike until after the new highway is operational, even as uses of the deck are being explored, will create significant cost and safety problems.

D.   Access roads to the Turnpike from Cambridge Street should align with Babcock, Alcorn and Malvern Streets so that pedestrian, bicycle and bus connections can be easily made across the rail yard.

E.   Ramps to the service roads should not be designed as permanent limited-access facilities lined with unusable sidewalks as at the Melnea Cass Boulevard entrance to the Southeast Expressway. Access to ramps and service roads should be limited cautiously, and no limited access ramps should extend more than one city block north of the relocated Mass Pike.

West Station

A.     The design for West Station should be based on double tracks for both the Boston to Worcester Line and double tracks for future frequent service on the Grand Junction Line.

B.     All tracks for the station and the rail yard should be lowered, if only a few feet, to allow for better north-south connections over the project area.

C.      Connections for all access to the West Station headhouse will involve use of the air rights above the railroad tracks. Pedestrian and bicycle access to the headhouse should be constructed across the air rights. Bus access on the air rights should be provided from Cambridge Street and from Commonwealth Avenue via Babcock and Malvern Streets and a roadway parallel to Ashford Street to provide full bus access.

D.      The layout of the tracks in the rail yard should be detailed as part of the design for reconstructing the Mass Pike interchange, with upgrading of the spacing between tracks to allows construction on the air rights above them. MassDOT should construct air rights decks as part of the West Station and Mass Pike projects. Potential users of the air rights next t o West Station should be found as soon as possible.

E.     The layout of the tracks should include mitigation for the Pratt Street neighborhood that lowers noise, perhaps through an 8’ high planted berm.

Soldiers Field Road and the Allston Esplanade

A.     Soldiers Field Road should be permanently moved away from the river as far as possible, to a location partially under the Mass Pike viaduct between Commonwealth Avenue and Babcock Street and from the end of that viaduct to the River Street Bridge.

B.    The Allston Esplanade – a wide, significant signature public space – should be created on the river’s edge adjacent to the relocated Soldiers Field Road, using the inspiration provided by the Boston Society of Architects presentations. Designs for the Allston Esplanade should extend at a minimum from the BU Bridge to the Western Avenue Bridge. 

C.    Wide pedestrian and bicycle paths should be provided along the river between the River Street Bridge to the BU Bridge.

D.     Connections to and from riverside paths should be provided by bridging the relocated Soldiers Field Road to connect to a landscaped mall

Bicycle, Pedestrian and Bus Connections

A.    A Charles River crossing for pedestrians and bicycles is mandatory. The best location would be the vicinity of the existing Grand Junction Bridge. If such a crossing is impossible to design and construct, the new pedestrian/bicycle bridge should be built west of the existing Grand Junction Bridge.

B.     A landscaped mall for the Peoples’ Pike shared use path should be constructed across the project site between the Lincoln Street/Cambridge Street bridge over the Pike to the Charles River paths. The Commonwealth Avenue Mall may be a prototype for the design of the mall.

C.    The shared use path should: 

  • Have separate paths for two-way bike and pedestrian travel with a minimum overall corridor width of 25’.
  • Have direct connections over the Pike and rail yards to Commonwealth Avenue via Babcock and Malvern Streets.   

D.    Bus connections should be provided north-south across the project area. Bus routes should be considered in all designs for West Station and the Mass Pike to provide connections to:

  • West Station
  • Harvard Square
  • Commonwealth Avenue via Babcock and Malvern Streets.
  • Harvard Avenue
  • Cambridge Street

Street Design

A.     A ‘complete streets’ design standard should be used throughout the project area and include all of the area that will be rebuilt following removal of the I-90 interchange and its connecting roadways.

B.     The redesign of Cambridge Street should carefully consider and fit into the existing residential neighborhoods. If Cambridge Street is to be split into two one-way streets, the existing Cambridge Street should:

  • Become one-way westbound
  • Be narrowed considerably, if it is to be one-way westbound, to respect the residential community (existing and future) on either side of the street.
  • Have no double-left turn lanes.
  • Be residential in character, with heavy traffic diverted by the design of new streets.

 C.   Babcock and Malvern Streets between Commonwealth Avenue and the rail yards should be designed to serve pedestrian, bicycle, and bus riders, with connections across the rail yards and the Mass Pike into North Alston.

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