fbpx

Tag: Revere

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

Revere Journal – “The City of Revere Receives Community Change Grant from America Walks”

Revere Journal – “The City of Revere Receives Community Change Grant from America Walks”

Revere Journal: “The City of Revere Receives Community Change Grant from America Walks

The City’s Healthy Community Initiatives department’s program, Revere on the Move, was selected from over 600 applications for projects that demonstrate the passion, creativity, and commitment of local walking champions. With support from partners, including the Juliet Ashby Hillman Foundation, Lyft, the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), and WalkBoston, 20 projects will be supported in 2019. Awardees will work with America Walks and other members of the Every Body Walk! Collaborative to successfully complete their projects and share their lessons with other community change agents. While the projects and programs work to improve walkability, the results of each grant will have a positive change on many areas of that community.

Posted January 10, 2019

Comments on the DEIR/DPIR for the Suffolk Downs Project, MEPA 15783

Comments on the DEIR/DPIR for the Suffolk Downs Project, MEPA 15783

December 14, 2018

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
ATTN: MEPA Office
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

Brian Golden, Director
Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-1007

RE:  Comments on the DEIR/DPIR for the Suffolk Downs Project
MEPA: #15783

Dear Secretary Beaton and Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the Suffolk Downs project. We offer the following comments on the project’s pedestrian environment, which overall is well addressed.

The project offers generous walking opportunities

The heart of the proposal is a 15-acre park – the Central Common – with walkways surrounding the site and connecting into and through the open space it provides. The Common has been designed as a one-mile running/walking loop. The park has water features with one pond that can be used for skating and another elongated pond that connects into the nearby saltwater Belle Isle Inlet. The Common connects on either end to meeting and performance spaces on plazas leading to the two Blue Line stations.

Main Street, a second north-south walkway, also connects Beachmont and Suffolk Downs Blue Line stations. This street will have wide, landscaped walkways with setbacks to allow for sidewalk cafes and other such uses along its route.

A third walkway, the Active Linear Corridor, parallels Main Street and runs midblock between Main Street and Tomasello Drive. This pedestrian-only street is intended to provide a series of active play spaces for all ages. The proposal is an extraordinary experiment – a half-mile long area that gives nearby space for casual and active uses. Figure 3.37 lists the potential uses of the corridor as active play, jumping mounds, rolling course, flex turf, climbing health, ping pong and jungle gym. Many of these are likely intended for children.

An additional north-south community trail skirts Tomasello Drive and is shown as a two-way bike facility that follows a swale on the side of the property facing the gas tanks, coupled with a sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.

There are several cross streets that connect the four north-south walkways. They vary in scale and importance. Several contain landscaped walkways and add to the many opportunities for walking throughout the project area.

One concern we ask the developer to address with respect to this generously scaled set of pedestrian ways and open spaces is that the play areas along the Active Linear Corridor (with the exception of the block near Waldemar Avenue) are located within blocks intended to be developed not for housing, but office uses, where presumably there will be few children in nearby buildings. As development occurs within the project, the proponents should ascertain if the proposed Active Linear Corridor is located appropriately to serve the intended users who may be living in residences on-site. Active recreational facilities for small children might be more appropriate lining the loop road at the eastern edge of the proposed Common. This route directly serves the three residential areas near the proposed Beachmont Plaza, the Belle Isle Plaza and the “Panhandle” near Route 1A. This route would strengthen the opportunities for residents to use the Common and its central meeting places as well.

East Boston Greenway extension

WalkBoston encourages the proponents to seriously consider a connection to the East Boston Greenway. The existing East Boston Greenway ends at the Belle Isle Marsh, near the Suffolk Downs MBTA station but on the other side of Bennington Street from the station. There is a roadside path/sidewalk paralleling Bennington Street between the main entrance to the marsh reservation and the crosswalk to the Suffolk Downs transit station. This path is used two-way by both cyclists and pedestrians. Extending the path further north toward Revere Beach is not an easy task. The frontage of Bennington Street is spacious and possibly could be the location of an extended route until reaching Everard Street in Revere, where the Bennington route narrows down on the approach to the Beachmont station at Winthrop Avenue.

A potential alternative location for extending the East Boston Greenway that was suggested in the DEIR exists in the large tract of land between the MBTA rail tracks and the Suffolk Downs property line. This land is nearly 10 acres of unused space and has no buildings on it between the Suffolk Downs transit station and Washburn Avenue in Revere. Depending on ownership the tract might be made available. If owned by the MBTA, the property might become available to the developer, who could include a north-south path that would be available as a substitute for the Bennington Avenue route and link the property into the regional Greenway network as a principal route in the system.

Possible new walking connections into Orient Heights from the project site

A decision has been reached with neighborhood residents that vehicular access between the project site and Orient Heights will not be provided. Several walking issues should be addressed to overcome this lack of street connection.

  1. Walley Street and the Suffolk Downs MBTA station
    Walley Street, just off Waldemar Avenue, is the current road and pedestrian access point to the Suffolk Downs transit station for Orient Heights residents. This approach currently works for all access to the neighborhood, and the proposed development adjacent to it respects existing neighborhood preferences and adds no vehicular access to the existing site. Instead the proposal adds a new access route for vehicles and shuttle buses to drop off transit-riders from the new development as close as possible to the transit station; this connection appears to be a part of the proposed Belle Isle Plaza. It is a bit unclear how this new connection will meet with existing streets and paths, and the developer, the City of Boston and the MBTA will need to coordinate the proposed new access with the existing street and path layout.
  2. South project boundary – Waldemar Avenue
    A community path along the full length of the south project boundary (approximately ½ mile long) connects the bus stop on Route 1A with the Suffolk Downs MBTA station at Walley Street. This is a good walking connection for East Boston/Orient Heights residents, as it provides connections to transit in two directions. From the Suffolk Downs station to a location about halfway between the MBTA station and Route 1A, an on-site road (also called Waldemar Avenue) parallels the path. It will be lined with small residential buildings backing onto the path. The Waldemar Avenue/Tomasello Drive intersection is well located to connect pedestrians into Orient Heights via the sidewalks of the Orient Heights public housing project and especially via Crestway Road, a short street that links to Faywood Avenue and directly to the Manassah Bradley School.
  3. Safe walking access to schools
    The proponents include no discussion or description of schools and safe routes to schools. For any students who are attending nearby schools, walking to school should be safe and convenient. The proponents of the project should work with both the City of Boston and the City of Revere to assure safe passage for all students living in Suffolk Downs and using local schools.

    WalkBoston suggests additional examination of the role of schools on the walking paths proposed for the development. Students attending the Bradley School from both Suffolk Downs and Orient Heights would be well served by a neighborhood connection to the proposed path network. In addition, we suggest looking at whether a playfield that includes active recreation uses could be located where Crestway Road meets Waldemar Avenue (Block 5 on Figure 3.7). A playfield located here could serve both the school and the new neighborhood at a logical intersection of the walkways that are such a positive element of the project.

    For children living in the Boston portion of the Suffolk Downs neighborhood, access to schools in the Orient Heights neighborhood will be somewhat constrained because there is no vehicular access between the two neighborhoods, other than the route provided by going out from Waldemar Avenue onto Route 1A between Tomasello Drive and Boardman Street.

    The closest Revere school is the Seacoast School, located on Bennington Street, which can be reached from Suffolk Downs only by an indirect route through the Beachmont transit station and by sidewalks for a further 1000 feet. The Garfield Elementary and Middle School is about 1500 feet north of Winthrop Avenue. Revere High School is located approximately one mile north of Winthrop Avenue.

Route 1A along the western border of the project area

WalkBoston has significant concerns about the proponent’s plans for the Route 1A corridor. Adding a third vehicular travel lane in each direction and increasing roadway capacity from 2,100 to 3,300 vehicles in each direction – an increase of 57 percent – threatens to undermine the ambitious transit-oriented development goals the proponent expresses elsewhere in the proposal. Increased vehicular traffic will also mean more greenhouse gas emissions and more risks to pedestrian and bicyclist safety. We question the need for more vehicular travel lanes on Route 1A between Furlong Drive and Boardman Street, as most southbound traffic on Route 1A will likely access and exit the project site via Route 145/Winthrop Avenue, rather than the proposed “super street” corridor. Similarly, because of the extensive footprint of the Tomasello Drive intersection with Route 1A, we assume that the proponents are anticipating that most of the northbound Route 1A traffic into the site will enter via Tomasello Drive and exit via the same intersection.

The proposal to add more vehicular travel lanes within the existing roadway footprint will also undermine pedestrian and bicycle accommodations along Route 1A. Adding lanes will likely require narrowing or eliminating the current highway median, which would otherwise provide an important pedestrian refuge at the new proposed crossings at Tomasello Drive and Furlong Drive. Absent such a refuge, pedestrians will be forced to cross six highway travel lanes at once, which increases safety hazards and diminishes connectivity between the project site and development and recreation opportunities along the Chelsea Creek. Adding travel lanes while maintaining a five-foot roadway shoulder also reduces the space available for truly safe and protected bicycle facilities. The current proposal for a narrow five-foot unprotected shoulder alongside fast-moving highway traffic does not provide any meaningful protections for cyclists.

Instead of the “super street” concept, we encourage the proponents to reconsider Route 1A as a truly multimodal transportation corridor, with no new travel lanes except those built as dedicated pull-offs for buses on both the northbound and the southbound sides of Route 1A. This will further advance the proponent’s vision for transit-oriented development, while also maintaining space for protected pedestrian facilities in the median of Route 1A. Dedicated bus pull-out lanes also provide for increased bus service. As part of such a plan, the proponent should commit to improved bus stop facilities along Route 1A, including benches and shelters. Pull-outs for bus lanes and bus stop facilities should be considered for replacement of the existing unsafe bus stops at Furlong Drive, the jug handle at the tank farm, Tomasello Drive and Boardman Street.

Pedestrian access to Route 1A bus connections 

Existing conditions for pedestrians and bus riders on 1A are terrible. We are glad that there are proposals that provide safe access for pedestrians to bus stops on Route 1A, including new pedestrian crossings at Tomasello Drive and Furlong Drive. The principal users of bus services may be most concerned about access at Tomasello Drive. The existing Tomasello Drive intersection is proposed to be divided into two components – one for traffic entering Suffolk Downs from Route 1A and the other for traffic exiting Suffolk Downs onto Route 1A.

Pedestrians from both Waldemar Avenue and Suffolk Downs are affected in a dramatic way by this proposal, which would add a bus stop island for northbound buses on Route 1A, a pedestrian island between the travel lanes for traffic exiting the site onto Route 1A, and a right-turning slip lane for traffic entering the site from Route 1A. We encourage the project proponents to also consider a more conventional T design for this intersection, similar to what exists now.

Under the proposed new configuration, most pedestrians will approach the intersection on the south side of Tomasello Drive, as that is the path that connects to the residential areas in the “Panhandle” of Suffolk Downs, as well as the homes in Orient Heights. The bus stop on the Suffolk Downs side of Route 1A would be located directly adjacent to the Tomasello Drive exit lanes onto Route 1A. Getting to the bus stop would require passengers to cross the right-turning slip lane from Route 1A to reach the bus stop island. The crossing of the slip lane is likely to be more dangerous for pedestrians than other crossings, as traffic entering the site may not be stopped by the Route 1A signals. This should get more attention in final designs; one option would be to install a signal protecting pedestrians and a crosswalk.

Pedestrians crossing Route 1A are primarily bus passengers using southbound Route 1A bus services. They, too, are required to cross the potentially dangerous slip lane from Route 1A into Tomasello Drive, along with the southbound lane that serves traffic exiting from Tomasello Drive. Pedestrians would halt on the island between the travel lanes exiting the site and cross directly to the bus stop on the west side of Route 1A. This movement can be made concurrently with the signal phase allowing exiting traffic to move from Tomasello Drive onto Route 1A. Designers of the traffic flow for this intersection must consider the possibility that walkers cannot cross without a median break that affords refuge and safety for pedestrians who cannot cross in one signal phase.

Offsite mitigation for pedestrians and bicyclists

The project proponents outline an extensive program for offsite traffic mitigation in Section 6.10 of the DEIR, detailing numerous operational improvements for motor vehicles broken down by specific locations and intersections. Pedestrian and bicycle improvements are described only briefly and in largely general terms at the end of this section. We encourage the proponents to provide more detailed plans in the FEIR for pedestrian and bicycle improvements at the same locations and intersections they are prioritizing for offsite traffic mitigation.

Thank you again for this opportunity to comment on the proposals that affect pedestrians in the Suffolk Downs project.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc:
Bob O’Brien, City of Revere

Page Czepina, MEPA Office

Tim Czerwienski, Boston Planning and Development Agency

Comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

Comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

January 25, 2018

Mayor Brian Arrigo
ATTN: Robert O’Brien, Director of Economic Development
City of Revere
281 Broadway
Revere, MA 02151

Secretary Matthew Beaton
ATTN: Page Czepiga, MEPA Analyst
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Director Brian Golden
ATTN: Tim Czerwienski, Project Manager
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall, Ninth Floor
Boston, MA 02201

RE: WalkBoston comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

Dear Mayor Arrigo, Secretary Beaton and Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HYM Investment Group’s proposed redevelopment of the Suffolk Downs site in East Boston and Revere. WalkBoston looks forward to working with the City of Revere, EEA, BPDA, HYM, and other agencies and project stakeholders to help advance the proponent’s stated goal of “creating a vibrant, mixed-use walkable community.”

Leveraging connections between walkability and transit

The proponent’s Expanded Project Notification Form (EPNF) reflects a strong commitment in principle to walkability and multimodal transportation connectivity. The proposed Phase 1 project emphasizes new pedestrian connections at the Suffolk Downs Blue Line station on the MBTA, and the Master Plan project is similarly premised upon pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line at Suffolk Downs and Beachmont Stations. Overall the Suffolk Downs site is wellpositioned for walkable transit-oriented development, which is reflected in HYM’s high anticipated mode shares for walking and transit for the Master Plan project. (The projected mode shares for walking range from 10.9% for office uses to 19.6% for residential uses; the projected mode shares for transit range from 45.4% for residential uses to 54.7% for hotel uses.)

The Phase 1 project has a much lower projected transit mode share of 37.5%, as well as a 44.4% projected mode share for single occupancy vehicles. We are concerned that this will create significant auto dependency from the onset of this project that will affect the future Master Plan development as well. The proponent states that “while there will be emphasis to support a high proportion of alternative trip making by the Phase 1 Project, this more conservative mode share profile has been utilized given the Phase 1 buildings are being analyzed as a standalone project without the benefit of a mixed-use environment.” We urge the proponent to aim for more ambitious transit, walking and biking mode share goals for the Phase 1 development to maximize the site’s potential for transit-oriented development.

The proponent also anticipates over 54,000 new transit trips per weekday, including over 4,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 5,000 trips during the evening peak hour. This number is very high relative to current Blue Line ridership levels. As part of their transit analysis for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), HYM should detail how they arrived at this number and how Blue Line ridership will change as the Master Plan project is phased in over time. This analysis should be accompanied by the proponent also clarifying their plans to invest in capacity upgrades along the Blue Line as part of a broader package of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies.

Exploring opportunities to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and parking spaces

While the high projected transit mode share and ridership are positive attributes of this development proposal, the proponent still projects over 33,000 new vehicle trips per weekday, including over 3,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 3,000 trips during the evening peak hour. This increased vehicular traffic has the potential to significantly affect congestion and pedestrian safety within the project site and along surrounding roadways. Given that vehicular access to the site is limited to just two intersections (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way), the proponent should clarify how the project site and surrounding streets will handle this traffic in the DEIR. Significant mitigation measures will be necessary to address 33,000 new vehicles on already congested streets.

While HYM does not specify how many new parking spaces will be needed to accommodate these vehicles, WalkBoston calculates that between 10,800 and 16,200 new spaces will be necessary, depending on the development program and parking ratios used. (The proponent states that the following parking ratio ranges should adequately support the Master Plan project’s parking demand into the future: residential, 0.5 to 1.0 spaces per unit; office, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; lab, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; hotel: 0.5 spaces per room; retail: 0.5 spaces per 1,000 SF). We are encouraged by the relatively low proposed parking ratios for the residential units, as well as HYM’s broader recognition that auto trip rates are likely to decrease over time. The final residential parking ratio should be as close to 0.5 spaces per unit as possible and we look forward to reviewing HYM’s TDM plans as part of the DEIR. Any strategies and mitigation measures proposed must further enhance walkability, bikeability and transit access, while reducing single occupancy vehicle use and the associated need for parking.

Exploring opportunities for bus/shuttle connectivity and related pedestrian access

HYM notes that there are several MBTA bus lines (450, 459 and 119) along Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue within a half-mile walk of the project site, and that “there are opportunities to expand MBTA bus service into the project site and provide for internal site transportation/shuttle to further improve access to public transit” as the Master Plan project is built out. The proponent should further explore and detail these options as part of their TDM plans in the DEIR, as increased utilization of MBTA buses and/or shuttles can reduce single occupancy vehicle use. An analysis of bus/shuttle options should examine the potential for increased service on existing MBTA bus lines and associated changes in ridership, as well as the potential to service the neighborhoods surrounding the project site. The proponent should also clarify their plans for investing in such services, whether through funding the MBTA or their own shuttles.

Ensuring that pedestrians can safely and comfortably walk to and from bus/shuttle stops is critical to ensuring that these services will be utilized. Ideally bus/shuttle stops will be located within a quarter-mile of the project site to maximize their usage. We appreciate HYM’s commitment to improving sidewalks adjacent to the project site to meet ADA standards and to include street trees if feasible, as well as their acknowledgement of the need for mitigation measures and infrastructure improvements at the site’s primary vehicular access points (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way). The proponent states that “geometric and traffic signal improvements will be recommended at both of these intersections to optimize traffic operations.”

Improvements at these locations must also address pedestrian safety and traffic calming. HYM plans to widen Tomasello Way and Route 1A as part of the Master Plan improvements, yet there are no crosswalks across Route 1A near the project site and the crosswalk across Tomasello Way at Route 1A is already 140 feet wide with minimal pedestrian refuge. Any signal and roadway upgrades at this location and near other shuttle/bus stops must provide safe pedestrian crossings and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals. Long crossing distances should be reduced as much as possible using curb extensions, and pedestrian refuges should be created and enhanced to provide protected waiting areas. In extreme circumstances, the proponent might consider working with the MBTA to relocate bus stops to more pedestrian-friendly locations.

Creating a walkable project site that meets Complete Streets standards

In addition to leveraging pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line, the proponent has integrated walkability and pedestrian connectivity into many other aspects of their redevelopment proposal. These include creating a new interior street network on site that meets Boston Transportation Department’s (BTD) Complete Streets guidelines, developing a system of multi-use ADA-compliant paths and trails that connects to adjacent neighborhoods and regional path networks, and activating the public realm with open space amenities and extensive ground-floor retail. Creating streets, sidewalks and paths that accommodate road users of all abilities and travel modes is critical to developing more livable and walkable communities, so WalkBoston is pleased to see a commitment to these issues in the EPNF.

We look forward to seeing more detailed plans for the interior streets, paths, intersections and signals as part of the DEIR. The interior streets should be designed to ensure that vehicles follow a 20 mile per hour speed limit to maximize walking safety as well as walking and transit mode shares. They should also include additional measures for pedestrian safety and traffic calming, including narrow vehicular travel lane widths, frequent and well-marked crosswalks, and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals. We encourage the proponent to maintain their current plans to not have vehicular access to the project site from Bennington Street or Waldemar Avenue, thus prioritizing multimodal connectivity and reducing the potential for increased local traffic.

Improving pedestrian safety throughout the project study area

The need for traffic mitigation is not limited to the immediate project vicinity and access points. To this end, HYM states that a mitigation program will likely focus on improvements to roadway geometry, traffic signals, and multimodal mobility along the broader Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue corridors, as well as Furlong Drive, the on-site roadway network, and other nearby intersections. The proponent also notes that many of the broader study area intersections are located within Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) clusters and thus are potentially subject to Road Safety Audits (RSAs) per Massachusetts Department of Transportation guidelines. WalkBoston looks forward to reviewing a more detailed discussion of the Master Plan project mitigation phasing and recommendations for the timing of specific roadway improvement projects as part of the DEIR. We are also available to participate in future RSAs as needed. Once again, we encourage utmost consideration for pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures as part of any improvement packages.

Thank you again for considering these issues and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc: House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Senate President Harriette Chandler
Senator Joseph Boncore, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative William Strauss, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative Adrian Madaro
Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, Transportation Chair
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, District 1
Revere City Council President Jessica Giannino
Revere City Councilor Steven Morabito, Economic Development and Planning Chair
Revere City Councilor Joanne McKenna, Ward 1
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacey Thompson, LivableStreets Alliance
Andre Leroux, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance
Richard Fries, MassBike Marc Ebuña, TransitMatters
Chris Dempsey, Transportation for Massachusetts

Comments on Suffolk Downs Redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

Comments on Suffolk Downs Redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

January 25, 2018

Mayor Brian Arrigo
ATTN: Robert O’Brien, Director of Economic Development
City of Revere
281 Broadway
Revere, MA 02151

Secretary Matthew Beaton
ATTN: Page Czepiga, MEPA Analyst
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Director Brian Golden
ATTN: Tim Czerwienski, Project Manager
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall, Ninth Floor
Boston, MA 02201

RE: WalkBoston comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment
(EEA No. 15783)

Dear Mayor Arrigo, Secretary Beaton and Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HYM Investment Group’s proposed redevelopment of the Suffolk Downs site in East Boston and Revere.  WalkBoston looks forward to working with the City of Revere, EEA, BPDA, HYM, and other agencies and project stakeholders to help advance the proponent’s stated goal of “creating a vibrant, mixed-use walkable community.”

Leveraging connections between walkability and transit
The proponent’s Expanded Project Notification Form (EPNF) reflects a strong commitment in principle to walkability and multimodal transportation connectivity.  The proposed Phase 1 project emphasizes new pedestrian connections at the Suffolk Downs Blue Line station on the MBTA, and the Master Plan project is similarly premised upon pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line at Suffolk Downs and Beachmont Stations.  Overall the Suffolk Downs site is well-positioned for walkable transit-oriented development, which is reflected in HYM’s high anticipated mode shares for walking and transit for the Master Plan project.  (The projected mode shares for walking range from 10.9% for office uses to 19.6% for residential uses; the projected mode shares for transit range from 45.4% for residential uses to 54.7% for hotel uses.)

The Phase 1 project has a much lower projected transit mode share of 37.5%, as well as a 44.4% projected mode share for single occupancy vehicles.  We are concerned that this will create significant auto dependency from the onset of this project that will affect the future Master Plan development as well.  The proponent states that “while there will be emphasis to support a high proportion of alternative trip making by the Phase 1 Project, this more conservative mode share profile has been utilized given the Phase 1 buildings are being analyzed as a standalone project without the benefit of a mixed-use environment.”  We urge the proponent to aim for more ambitious transit, walking and biking mode share goals for the Phase 1 development to maximize the site’s potential for transit-oriented development.

The proponent also anticipates over 54,000 new transit trips per weekday, including over 4,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 5,000 trips during the evening peak hour.  This number is very high relative to current Blue Line ridership levels.  As part of their transit analysis for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), HYM should detail how they arrived at this number and how Blue Line ridership will change as the Master Plan project is phased in over time.  This analysis should be accompanied by the proponent also clarifying their plans to invest in capacity upgrades along the Blue Line as part of a broader package of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies.

Exploring opportunities to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and parking spaces
While the high projected transit mode share and ridership are positive attributes of this development proposal, the proponent still projects over 33,000 new vehicle trips per weekday, including over 3,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 3,000 trips during the evening peak hour.  This increased vehicular traffic has the potential to significantly affect congestion and pedestrian safety within the project site and along surrounding roadways.  Given that vehicular access to the site is limited to just two intersections (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way), the proponent should clarify how the project site and surrounding streets will handle this traffic in the DEIR.  Significant mitigation measures will be necessary to address 33,000 new vehicles on already congested streets.

While HYM does not specify how many new parking spaces will be needed to accommodate these vehicles, WalkBoston calculates that between 10,800 and 16,200 new spaces will be necessary, depending on the development program and parking ratios used.  (The proponent states that the following parking ratio ranges should adequately support the Master Plan project’s parking demand into the future: residential, 0.5 to 1.0 spaces per unit; office, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; lab, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; hotel: 0.5 spaces per room; retail: 0.5 spaces per 1,000 SF).  We are encouraged by the relatively low proposed parking ratios for the residential units, as well as HYM’s broader recognition that auto trip rates are likely to decrease over time.  The final residential parking ratio should be as close to 0.5 spaces per unit as possible and we look forward to reviewing HYM’s TDM plans as part of the DEIR.  Any strategies and mitigation measures proposed must further enhance walkability, bikeability and transit access, while reducing single occupancy vehicle use and the associated need for parking.

Exploring opportunities for bus/shuttle connectivity and related pedestrian access

HYM notes that there are several MBTA bus lines (450, 459 and 119) along Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue within a half-mile walk of the project site, and that “there are opportunities to expand MBTA bus service into the project site and provide for internal site transportation/shuttle to further improve access to public transit” as the Master Plan project is built out.  The proponent should further explore and detail these options as part of their TDM plans in the DEIR, as increased utilization of MBTA buses and/or shuttles can reduce single occupancy vehicle use.  An analysis of bus/shuttle options should examine the potential for increased service on existing MBTA bus lines and associated changes in ridership, as well as the potential to service the neighborhoods surrounding the project site.  The proponent should also clarify their plans for investing in such services, whether through funding the MBTA or their own shuttles.

Ensuring that pedestrians can safely and comfortably walk to and from bus/shuttle stops is critical to ensuring that these services will be utilized.  Ideally bus/shuttle stops will be located within a quarter-mile of the project site to maximize their usage.  We appreciate HYM’s commitment to improving sidewalks adjacent to the project site to meet ADA standards and to include street trees if feasible, as well as their acknowledgement of the need for mitigation measures and infrastructure improvements at the site’s primary vehicular access points (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way).  The proponent states that “geometric and traffic signal improvements will be recommended at both of these intersections to optimize traffic operations.”

Improvements at these locations must also address pedestrian safety and traffic calming.  HYM plans to widen Tomasello Way and Route 1A as part of the Master Plan improvements, yet there are no crosswalks across Route 1A near the project site and the crosswalk across Tomasello Way at Route 1A is already 140 feet wide with minimal pedestrian refuge.  Any signal and roadway upgrades at this location and near other shuttle/bus stops must provide safe pedestrian crossings and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals.  Long crossing distances should be reduced as much as possible using curb extensions, and pedestrian refuges should be created and enhanced to provide protected waiting areas.  In extreme circumstances, the proponent might consider working with the MBTA to relocate bus stops to more pedestrian-friendly locations.

Creating a walkable project site that meets Complete Streets standards
In addition to leveraging pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line, the proponent has integrated walkability and pedestrian connectivity into many other aspects of their redevelopment proposal.  These include creating a new interior street network on site that meets Boston Transportation Department’s (BTD) Complete Streets guidelines, developing a system of multi-use ADA-compliant paths and trails that connects to adjacent neighborhoods and regional path networks, and activating the public realm with open space amenities and extensive ground-floor retail.  Creating streets, sidewalks and paths that accommodate road users of all abilities and travel modes is critical to developing more livable and walkable communities, so WalkBoston is pleased to see a commitment to these issues in the EPNF.

We look forward to seeing more detailed plans for the interior streets, paths, intersections and signals as part of the DEIR.  The interior streets should be designed to ensure that vehicles follow a 20 mile per hour speed limit to maximize walking safety as well as walking and transit mode shares.  They should also include additional measures for pedestrian safety and traffic calming, including narrow vehicular travel lane widths, frequent and well-marked crosswalks, and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals.  We encourage the proponent to maintain their current plans to not have vehicular access to the project site from Bennington Street or Waldemar Avenue, thus prioritizing multimodal connectivity and reducing the potential for increased local traffic.

Improving pedestrian safety throughout the project study area
The need for traffic mitigation is not limited to the immediate project vicinity and access points.  To this end, HYM states that a mitigation program will likely focus on improvements to roadway geometry, traffic signals, and multimodal mobility along the broader Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue corridors, as well as Furlong Drive, the on-site roadway network, and other nearby intersections.  The proponent also notes that many of the broader study area intersections are located within Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) clusters and thus are potentially subject to Road Safety Audits (RSAs) per Massachusetts Department of Transportation guidelines.  WalkBoston looks forward to reviewing a more detailed discussion of the Master Plan project mitigation phasing and recommendations for the timing of specific roadway improvement projects as part of the DEIR.  We are also available to participate in future RSAs as needed.  Once again, we encourage utmost consideration for pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures as part of any improvement packages.

Thank you again for considering these issues and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,
Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc: House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Senate President Harriette Chandler
Senator Joseph Boncore, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative William Strauss, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative Adrian Madaro
Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, Transportation Chair
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, District 1
Revere City Council President Jessica Giannino
Revere City Councilor Steven Morabito, Economic Development and Planning Chair
Revere City Councilor Joanne McKenna, Ward 1
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacey Thompson, LivableStreets Alliance
Andre Leroux, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance
Richard Fries, MassBike
Marc Ebuña, TransitMatters
Chris Dempsey, Transportation for Massachusetts

————————————————————————————————
Join WalkBoston’s Mailing List to keep up to date on advocacy issues.

Like our work? Support WalkBoston – Donate Now!
Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook