Report on public hearing on Causeway Street project

This is a detailed report on the 25% design phase public hearing about reconstruction of Causeway Street, held at TD BankNorth Garden, August 8, 2012

The meeting was a bit hard to find — entry was just inside the doors at the O’Neill Federal building side of North Station. A number of people were already standing around when the doors opened at 6:30 PM and a security guard walked us up three flights of stairs—past lifelike statues of Boston Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox greats in action poses, wearing their playing attire, reminiscent of Tussaud’s waxworks. The meeting was held in the Legends Room, which is a restaurant attached to one of the longest wet bars I have ever seen. The bar was not open for business.

There is no report on the meeting in this morning’s (August 9) Boston Herald or Boston Globe newspaper, and there was nobody I could identify as a representative of the media other than one North End citizen blogger, Matt Conti of NorthEndWaterfront.com, who videotaped the meeting. His description of the project is here,

http://northendwaterfront.com/2012/08/causeway-street-crossroads-initiative-public-hearing-on-august-8-2012/

Mr. Conti told me that he will be posting video.

(Update, 5 PM August 9: Mr. Conti’s report on the meeting, with link to his video and project documents:

http://northendwaterfront.com/2012/08/mixed-feedback-at-causeway-street-redesign-hearing-video/ )

Representatives of neighborhood advocacy groups and of the Boston Cyclists’ Union, Walkboston and Livable Streets attended, but nobody spoke up for Massbike.

A verbatim transcript of the meeting is being prepared. Additional information, as it becomes available, can be found by searching on the MassDOT project file number, 606320.

Al Miller, project manager from MassDOT, introduced Jonathan Greeley from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who expressed that he was excited to have this hearing. “Everyone has been heard from.”

Miller explained that the Federal Highway Administration would fund 80% of project, MassDOT the remainder. It must be in the Transportation Improvement Plan in some year to get funding. The project would cost $12M not including right-of-way acquisition. Permanent and temporary easements will be required, by donation, purchase and if necessary, eminent domain.

A presentation by Dave Madden and Rick Lantini, from consultant Howard, Stein and Hudson, followed.

Madden: The project runs from the back side of the parking garage on Lomasney Way to Causeway Street and then along Causeway Street, to just past North Washington Street.

Lowell Square (Lomasney Way/Staniford Street/Causeway Street) is confusing, difficult to navigate. The overhead Green Line was torn down but some of the footings remain and this also explains some of why the road was set up as it was.

At Washington Street, the crosswalks are long. There are more pedestrians than vehicles out here now.

The project would widen the sidewalks, clean up the intersections, accommodate bicyclists with bike lanes. Landscaping and planters along the edge of roads would channelize pedestrians to crossings. Flush medians would be installed in Lomasney Way/Staniford Street. Traffic flow on Causeway Street would be defined better. There would be a bike lane to left of a right-turn lane for the left turn from Causeway Street to Staniford Street, and a one-lane entry to Causeway Street from Lowell Square. Lanes would be narrowed to 10 ½ feet, design exception required to accommodate bike lanes and widened sidewalks. There would be speed tables at a couple of pedestrian crossings, with artistic patterns in the pavement including one resembling a rail yard. “Vertical elements” would prevent pedestrians from crossing in mid-block.

Near North Station, bike lanes would be next to commercial parking, taxi and shuttle bus stops. East of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, bike lanes would be adjacent to the curbs. Shared-lane markings would be used around Keany Square (N. Washington Street and Causeway Street), where the median and stepped crossing would be eliminated; pedestrian crossings would be concurrent, and lane widths would be changed. There would be no more left turn from N. Washington Street to Causeway Street; drivers would have to go to Haverhill Street instead.

Lantini: This is a Complete Streets approach with better design for pedestrians, less steep grades. Islands are being reorganized. The west end of the Causeway Street sidewalk in front of the O’Neill Federal Building can’t be widened; the rest of it will be between 18 and 26 feet wide. There will be pedestrian-level lights at 15 feet rather than 25 and possibly, specialty pavement. The plans are not yet complete.

Miller asked for comments, first calling on Federal, State and local officials. None responded. Then he asked for comments from others.

Jim Zacca, resident, described the realities of duck boats, buses and taxis: it would be hard to envision how that would be improved with narrow lanes.

Dorothea Hass, Walkboston: this is an improved design, elimination of LT from N. Washington to Causeway. Would it be possible to put yield to bicycles, rumble strip that wouldn’t put bicyclists at risk?

I spoke, describing the problem with bike lanes adjacent to commercial parking, and pointing out that Central Square, Cambridge and Kenmore Square, Boston, are examples of where this doesn’t work. I said that I didn’t expect that there is any way Causeway Street could be made bicycle-friendly, what with the heavy pedestrian cross traffic and frequent parking turnover, and mentioned the proposed bicycle-pedestrian overpass behind North Station as an alternative and preferable east-wet route for bicyclists. I acknowledged that this is not part of the project.

Jane Forrestal, a resident of West End Place, complained that there would be nowhere to enter and exit. Nearly 200 children live in West End Place. Children need to be picked up and dropped off on the corner where there is currently landscaping. There is no room for school buses.

Chris Mahar spoke representing North Companies, owners of the TD BankNorth Garden. There is a proposed ramp for a parking garage which doesn’t show in the plans. He has concerns about the proposed median.

Anne Lusk from the Harvard School of Public Health gave an impassioned speech about the need to accommodate women and children bicyclists by means of cycle tracks. She complained that there are many pedestrians, but not many bicyclists in he North Station area because it isn’t favorable to bicycling. “If you put in bike lanes, you will find as John Pucher found that the levels of male bicyclists go up, women and children go down.” She said that Montreal cycle tracks are 28% safer than street without them, citing her own recent study (but about this study, please see http://john-s-allen.com/reports/montreal-kary.htm). Recent research in NYC shows more bicyclists as a result of cycle tracks. They are going in in NYC, Washington, DC, San Francisco and we would be backwards if we didn’t put in cycle tracks, keep up with rest of country. “We” would look at the plan with you. Please look into this.

Christine Savage, neighborhood resident: There’s trouble with traffic in and out of the neighborhood, and she highlighted the Veteran’s Services office as a special concern, also the difficulty of getting to Beverly Street Extension.

Anna Frattaroli, who owns property at N Washington and Causeway, and operates restaurants there, does not support making Endicott Street end in a speed table. Speeding across intersection is a problem, people running for their lives is a problem. She has had to call an ambulance many times. Response: improvements are being made including Endicott Street’s getting its own signal interval.

Duane Lucia, Executive Director of the West End Museum on Staniford St.: Does federal aid mandate some be spent on culture. How is that bidded out? What measures along Lomasney Way. Support bicycling. Originally mentioned bicycle lanes along the median, he is all for that. Mitigating construction impacts.

Dick Bauer, works on Friend Street, inadequacy of bike lanes adjacent to parked cars. Causeway Street is very wide, perfect place for cycle tracks. Response from Madden: we cannot get a cycle track due to volume of pedestrians.

Louise Thomas, West End resident: concerned with local traffic issues, like Jane Forrestal.

Jonathan Greeley, Boston Redevelopment Authority responded: All traffic modes are being taken into account including he new parking garage on the Boston Garden site.

Lusk: how did you do modeling of bicycles: Women, children, parents with children or did you just model on a bicyclists who is a male bicyclist.

Madden: we assume that some bicyclists feel safer on the sidewalk—we don’t encourage that but we accommodate bicycles in the street. Putting in a cycle track in the sidewalk wouldn’t be safe.

Pete Stidman, Boston Cyclists’ Union: in some places you could just raise the lane above street level. Peter Furth and he met with people from the project. This is a place where lots of families come. You see tons of bikes parked outside North Station. Hubway is growing way beyond expectations. Have heard from several workers who think this street needs a stronger facility. He conceded that the Vassar Street cycle tracks in Cambridge are unpopular, but he suggested one for Causeway Street. “Work with us”.

Steve Miller of Livable Streets started by complementing the project designers: “you have done a lot of thinking, BUT push as far as you can, It’S good but should get great. There are the 15-20 minutes when the game lets out. Give it to the pedestrians then. Work with the City to make this a ped priority location. It’s one way to not have to design to deal with that without having to design for it. This is a gateway from the Rose Kennedy Greenway to the river and to Charlestown. We are about to have cycle tracks in Charlestown.. We don’t want to have bicycle jams here. There’s lots of space for landscaping. He is in favor of cycle tracks, which can have many forms, let’s not have a narrow view.

He is also concerned that bicycle and ped facilities aren’t being carried all the way to North Washington street. Also think of continuation of bicycles and pedestrians through the intersections with separate traffic lights, dotted lines, colored lines. Step up on that one a little bit more. Finally, remember that North Station is a major Hubway station. Hubway has reached 300,000 trips and this is going to grow. You come in on the train and go to work. You will have a lot of people on bikes who are not experienced bicyclists.

Mark Tedrow, sitting with Steve miller: Bicycle facilities from one end of Causeway to the other are possible, it would only be necessary to eliminate one travel lane. You would have to be an “aggressive cyclist” to make some moves through this area. Ped crossings at Friend and Canal street?

Scott Guerra, Causeway Street resident and property owner: Design does not represent the reality — curb utilization is wrong — no taxi stand in front of the station. At Dunkin Donuts, police, ambulances, etc. stop. More room in the street is needed instead of ridiculously wide sidewalks. Results: bicyclist problems, double parking, traffic jams. There was no traffic study during Garden events (Reply from Madden: not true.)

Gary Hammer, local resident: Adequate pick-up and drop-off zones are needed. He hopes that the plan includes improved wayfinding for vehicular and pedestrians.

Sarah Freeman, works in public health, fan of bike network project and sitting at the table with Miller and Tedrow: call this project a reconstruction, encourage seizing the opportunity. She described herself as a timid, female, senior cyclist. “If I see a blue line that comes and goes I’m not biking there. When did you write the proposal?” Madden: “About 6 years ago.” Freeman: It’s a different climate. Boston has done a 180. If you build it, it will get used. Madden: Nicole Freedman worked with us to come to this design. We are here to listen to you.

David Lyons, West End resident, takes Hubway from South station but stops at North Station. Without a dedicated area that a taxi isn’t going to cross, it isn’t going to be safe. Work with very knowledgeable advocates. He wants to park his Hubway bicycle in front of Whole Foods, have a cup of coffee and then go home.

Jane Forrestal (again) – what about taking of property? Response: at West End Place it will only be for a curb cut.

Joanne Fantasia, North End resident. Many crashes occur with people turning from N. Washington to Medford. Her main concern is Keany Square. She wants an exclusive ped phase.

Tom Bertulis, freelance traffic engineer. The theme here is people talking about bicycles. He has been designing European style cycle tracks. Median bikeway designs are common in Latin America. There’s lots you can do, let’s not take it off the table. He would work pro bono.

Dorothea Hass spoke again. She likes the greenery. WalkBoston works closely with bicyclists but this is a hard-edged urban environment, greenery would soften it a bit. She concurs with what said about Causeway and North Washington. There may be some urban design solutions. It feels like a highway. Maybe the BRA and others can become involved. Maybe there is some way to slow vehicles.

Malik Alcati, West End resident. Spoke mainly about the need for more wayfinding signs, especially for pedestrians. He pointed out some alternate routes pedestrians might use.

At 8:30 PM, Project Manager Al Miller asked only for comments that weren’t repetitive of ones already made. I had to leave to catch an 8:45 PM train home, and so I missed the end of the meeting as it was winding down.

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One Response to Report on public hearing on Causeway Street project

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