BRA and BTD to Work on Action Plan

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and Boston Transportation Department (BTD) announced last week that they would begin working on a transportation action plan for the area around North Station before the end of the year.

The plan, which will also cover the West End, Bullfinch Triangle and Government Center, will provide a comprehensive analysis of the existing transportation network as well as potential near- and long-term improvements across various types of transit.

The undertaking comes at a time when several large development projects are underway or soon to begin in this portion of downtown.

Eight private partners, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Delaware North (owners of the TD Garden), Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, Related Beal, Boston Properties, HYM Investment Group and Trinity Financial will contribute $50,000 each, for a total of $400,000, to support the city’s efforts. By virtue of their presence or development interests in the area, the funders all have a major stake in ensuring a strong transportation network around North Station, Government Center and the West End.

“Downtown Boston is experiencing unprecedented growth, and we must do everything in our power to make sure growth doesn’t come at the expense of gridlock,” said BRA Director Brian Golden. “This transportation plan will take stock of all development, from buildings to infrastructure, and provide us with valuable insight into where we should invest in improvements. We’re grateful to have the support and partnership of our funders to be able to execute this work.”

Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Gina N. Fiandaca said, “BTD is thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with the community in this process. We expect it to result in both immediate and long term action items that will significantly improve mobility in the North Station area of the city and advance a comprehensive transportation plan for this burgeoning neighborhood.”

The BRA and BTD expect to release a request for proposals in January to hire a transportation consultant to assist with the plan. The agencies are currently drafting a scope of work for the project.

The North Station Transportation Action Plan, which is expected to take about nine months to complete, will offer a holistic look at how people walk, use public transportation, bike, and drive around the area. Key tasks will include: conduct an existing conditions analysis and a future needs assessment that addresses the combined impacts of new development over the next 15 years; proposing a slate of early action transportation projects to achieve immediate improvements; proposing a long-term strategic investment plan of new transportation projects and programs; and measuring the effectiveness of the improvements relative to the goals of the plan.

Through the action plan, the BRA and BTD hope to propose achievable improvements and potential funding sources with a realistic timeline for implementation.

The Transportation Action Plan will be driven by public participation and input from a broad group of stakeholders with clear-cut decision points. Conventional public meetings will be supplemented by site walks, online participation, and open houses.

Nearly half of residents in the North Station area report that they walk to work, and 22 percent use public transportation to commute to their jobs, according to data from the 2013 American Community Survey. However, 22 percent drive alone, which can be a factor in creating congestion. The action plan will offer solutions for easing traffic concerns and promoting better circulation.

An estimated 7.7 million square feet of new development is expected in this part of Boston in the coming years. Developments under construction near North Station include the Avalon North Station, One Canal, and Lovejoy Wharf residential projects.

Boston Properties’ multi-phase Boston Garden project and Equity Residential’s Garden Garage redevelopment are approved and under review, respectively. HYM Investment’s redevelopment of the hulking Government Center Garage and the Haymarket Hotel project, which is proposed by Normandy Real Estate and Harbinger Development, represent other large projects that will have an impact on transportation conditions.

In addition to the development that’s underway, there are many significant infrastructure projects planned or in discussion. Connect Historic Boston, a partnership between the City of Boston and the National Park Service, plans to upgrade Causeway Street with better bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. Additionally, two important bridges that serve the study area, the Longfellow and the North Washington Street bridges, will be overhauled in the next five years, and the state is contemplating realigning a portion of Storrow Drive near Mass General Hospital.

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