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Tag: Revere

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

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Comments on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Mohegan Sun Development MEPA# 15006

Comments on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Mohegan Sun Development MEPA# 15006

August 8, 2014

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

RE: Comments on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Mohegan Sun Development MEPA# 15006

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

The proposal included in the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report makes some changes to the components of the Mohegan Sun Development and slightly alters pedestrian access to the site. Construction will include 965,000 sq ft of gross floor area, providing space for 5,000 gaming positions, 450-500 hotel rooms, 44,000 sq ft of meeting/entertainment space and 100,000 sq ft of retail space. Parking for 4,200 cars will be located beneath the structure, with an additional 270 cars on surface but below the first floor of the building.

Pedestrian entry into the site takes place at the two corners of the site, with a southwest corner entrance devoted to people arriving by private vehicles, and a northeast corner entrance devoted to people arriving by public transit (bus and subway), tour buses and walking from the surrounding area. Most of our comments focus on the building’s external design, and the ways in which people find access to and from the building.

1. Access to the site – the balance between transit and driving
Although this casino site is much better served by public transportation than any of the other proposed sites in Massachusetts, access by private vehicle may be encouraged because of the extremely large number of on-site parking spaces. We urge the proponent to give greater consideration to encouraging transit and pedestrian access and discouraging vehicular access.

• A potentially attractive reliance on public transportation may be lost because by the ease of driving and finding a parking space. Perhaps parking should be deemphasized through pricing and location.

• People arriving by vehicle are pampered by weather protection, provided in two ways: either by live access using a porte cochere and valet services, or by direct access into the underground parking garages where access is served by elevators.

• The access area at the porte cochere does not encourage pedestrians who do not arrive by car. For example, walkers using Tomasello Drive to get to the entrance areas of the southwest corner of the site will find a sidewalk that leads into the parking garage where elevators connect to the main floors.

2. Access on foot will be primarily served by public and private transportation to the northeast corner of the site.
At this corner there is access from adjacent MBTA bus stops. The MBTA Beachmont Station on the Blue Line is about 150 feet away. Tour bus bays are immediately adjacent to the concourse of the entry way. The concentration of arrivals into the concourse area appears to be an efficient way to enter the development.

• The grade of the northeast corner concourse may be difficult for certain users to reach. It appears that all people arriving at his corner of the site will have to go up at least one level via elevators and/or stairs to reach the main floor, where further vertical public circulation is available. Access to the concourse level varies. For example, people arriving by public transportation, whether by bus or rapid transit, will need to go up at least eight steps to the concourse level. Arrivals from the tour bus drop-off area may have to do the same. It is unclear how arriving patrons in wheelchairs will access the concourse; there is no evident ADA access ramp from the sidewalk at the intersection of Winthrop and Washburn Avenues up to the concourse level.

• Weather protection for arriving pedestrians should be provided. Covered walkways would be appropriate, particularly on the approach from Washburn Avenue and on the open stairway at the main entrance.

3. Access to and from the Beachmont MBTA station
The proponent should work with the MBTA to enhance access to and from the rapid transit platforms at the Beachmont station. Wayfinding signs inside the station should be used to direct riders to the Mohegan Sun complex. Wayfinding signs at the entrance/exit concourse of the proposed development could reinforce the potential for patrons to take transit, especially because the station is so close.

4. Off-site improvements
The proponent has committed $45 million for off-site roadway, traffic and safety improvements. We hope that the commitment will be honored with full ADA compliance, and with appropriate pedestrian signal equipment at each intersection (including countdown signals, leading pedestrian indicators and automatic recall of WALK signals during the hours when pedestrians will be present). Crosswalks should be provided with zebra striping, and in some locations in-street pedestrian signs such as “yield to pedestrian” may be appropriate. Refuge islands at street centerlines should also be considered on major roadways.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman              Robert Sloane
Executive Director            Senior Planner

 

Comments on Notice of Project Change for the Mohegan Sun Massachusetts in Revere EEA #15006

Comments on Notice of Project Change for the Mohegan Sun Massachusetts in Revere EEA #15006

March 7, 2014

Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE:  Comments on Notice of Project Change for the Mohegan Sun Massachusetts in Revere EEA #15006

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Notice of Project Change (NPC) for the Mohegan Sun Massachusetts project in Revere and offers the comments below.

The NPC was prompted by the shift of the project location to Suffolk Downs property that is located solely in Revere. This change will have significant impacts on pedestrian movement into and through the project. The elements of the project – two hotels, large gaming space, numerous restaurants and spa– have not changed. But, in the new location, the buildings have a substantially reduced footprint and are much closer to existing business and residential areas.

Walking Access to Transit – Beachmont MBTA Station

The principal impact of the project change for people arriving on foot is the much greater proximity of the development to transit access, now shifted to the Beachmont MBTA Station (formerly focused on the Suffolk Downs Station). The revised location for the proposed resort places the main entrance only 300 feet from Beachmont Station, and will likely shift some trips from autos to transit because of this proximity.

In order to encourage transit and walking trips, we suggest exploring several pedestrian amenities including the following:

  • A significantly wider sidewalk along Winthrop Avenue between Beachmont Station and the site of the resort.
  • An weather-protected sidewalk along Winthrop Avenue between the primary entrance and exit locations at Beachmont Station to Washburn Avenue. The canopy or arcade should connect directly to the existing MBTA station entrance which already has weather protection.
  • A weather-protected walkway from the edge of the resort property on Washburn Avenue to the main resort entrance.
  • Significant upgrades in wayfinding inside Beachmont Station and along the route to the resort to encourage transit ridership and reinforce the convenient transit access.
  • Upgrades of escalators and elevators inside Beachmont Station to adequately and safely handle greater numbers of riders using transit.
  • Signalization or signage protection for pedestrians crossing Washburn Street on the south side of Winthrop Avenue.

Traffic Mitigation

We are fearful that the project will add a great deal of traffic to an area that cannot handle it easily. Winthrop Avenue and the Revere Beach Parkway are heavily used already. Improvements to the interchange with Route 1 will only add to the use of these streets, which cannot easily accommodate them.

Better access might be provided via Tomesello Way, from Route 1A the Suffolk Downs Racetrack parking areas, which will have greater capacity for storage of vehicles and a more orderly approach to the casino. We think the proponent would be well advised to encourage use of Tomesello Way and the MBTA Blue Line for principal access points into the casino property.

In addition, the parking garage is enormous, suggesting a commitment only to vehicular access. Perhaps the proponent could save some of the construction cost of this garage through the use of thoughtful techniques of encouraging patrons not to drive – perhaps a benefit of some sort that patrons could use on the floor of the casino.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them.

Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Project Manager

Cc Massachusetts Gaming Commission
Mayor Dan Rizzo