Category: Beacon Hill Times

City Considering Sept. 22 for Car-Free ‘Open Charles Street’

To dovetail with the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Fall HillFest, city officials are exploring the idea of closing Charles Street to vehicular traffic and transforming it into a pedestrian-only walkway for the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 22, for “Open Charles Street,” according to Jacob Wessel, the city’s public realm director.

But Wessel told those in attendance at a special meeting of the BHCA Traffic and Parking Committee on July 30 at 74 Joy St. to address the matter that the city hasn’t yet committed to the event, which would be modeled after “Open Newbury Street.”

Now, in its fourth year, “Open Newbury Street” “puts the “park in parking,” as Wessel said, by temporarily converting Newbury Street, along with some side streets, into a car-free zone. It has expanded from a one-day event in 2016 to three days each summer this year, with the next taking place on Sunday, Aug. 25.

For “Open Newbury Street,” Wessel said some restaurants in the neighborhood receive one-day license extensions that allow them to temporarily transform the sidewalk outside their storefronts into outdoor patio space. No vendors from outside the Newbury Street area are allowed to participate either, he said, so only neighborhood businesses profit from the events.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone pointed to the many road closures caused by “Open Newbury Street” and suggested that the city look carefully at who will be most impacted by the event in planning “Open Charles Street.”

Ali Ringenburg, co-chair of the Joint Charles Street Committee and a Beacon Hill Business Association board member, requested that only neighborhood businesses, be allowed to participate in the event, and that no vehicles whatsoever be permitted on the street (except in case of emergency).

“The five blocks on Charles Street are very conducive to having events like this, maybe even more than Newbury Street,” Ringenburg said, “and the businesses want to support this event and have it correspond with HillFest.”

Ben Starr, chair of the Traffic and Parking Committee, suggested that if “Open Charles Street” comes to pass, the event should adhere to the same hours – noon to 4 p.m. – as the Fall HillFest, the annual block party held between on Mt. Vernon Street between Charles and Brimmer streets.

Starr said the proposal would go before the BHCA Executive Committee for a vote of opposition or non-opposition prior to the next board meeting on Sept. 9 while an informal poll of those in attendance at the Traffic and Parking Committee meeting found that 13 of 14 of those surveyed supported the idea, and one opposed it.

In another matter, Starr said the installation of a curb-cut at 28 Pinckney St. could result in the loss of two parking spaces while expressing frustration that the neighborhood didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in on the decision.

“Unlike with the [Zoning Board of Appeal] and zoning variances, there’s no process for curb-cuts; it’s just administrative approval,” Starr said. “They don’t seek neighbors’ thoughts and opinions…and to me, this is just a flaw in the system.”

Meanwhile, Starr said the installation of a new station for the Blue Bike metro bike-share program at the corner of Charles and Mt. Vernon streets would also likely result in the loss of two more parking spaces, and that a Blue Bike station now located outside Panificio Bistro and Bakery at 144 Charles St. will be relocated to the side of The Whitney Hotel.

http://beaconhilltimes.com/2019/08/08/city-considering-sept-22-for-car-free-open-charles-street/

State Unveils Conceptual Plans for Craigie Bridge Bike Lane

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) unveiled conceptual plans for the installation of a bike lane on the Craigie Bridge (a/k/a Charles River Dam Road) at a community meeting on Wednesday, May 1, at the Museum of Science.

MassDOT Highway Engineer Andy Paul outlined the state’s proposal to add dedicated the bike lane from Land Boulevard to Leverett Circle, which would reduce the existing six travel lanes to five.

The 5-foot bike lane and 11-foot travel lanes would be separated by a 1½-foot buffer area with flex-posts and painted markings. In the opposite direction, the travel lanes would measure 10 feet wide.

Bike signals would be installed at Land Boulevard and Museum Way, as would a new left-turn lane to provide access to the Gilmore Bridge, Paul said.

Also, the left-turn lane from Land Boulevard onto Charles River Dam Road would be modified from double-left to a single-left.

At Museum Way, the buffer between the travel and bike lanes would be reduced to a single lane.

Flex-posts would be removed coming over the bridge past the museum towards Leverett Circle while the bike lane would be reduced to 4 feet and travel lanes would be narrowed to 10 feet, Paul said.

A left-turn would also be installed to provide a bike crossing at Martha Road.

Heading towards the museum, the bike lane would measure 6½ feet over the bridge.

The project is scheduled to start next month after ongoing construction on the Gilmore Bridge wraps up, with Phase One entailing the addition of new pavement stripings, signage and flex-posts while the second phase would involve the modification of traffic signals.

The first public meeting on this matter took place at MIT last December, followed by a “Road Safety Audit” the following month, Paul said.

“MassDOT and [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] did a great job of taking feedback from all stakeholders,” State Rep. Jay Livingstone told this reporter. “I think the final product will greatly improve the experience for both bicyclists and pedestrians.”

West End Civic Association Winter Meeting Set for Feb. 21

Beacon Hill Times Staff

Please join the West End Civic Association on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. for its winter meeting held at Amy Lowell Community Room, 65 Martha Road The doors open at 6:45 p.m.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone and Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim will update on issues affecting the West End.

Special Guest Speaker

Reverend Joseph M. White – Saint Joseph Parish

Father Joe will discuss the opioid and drug crisis that is affecting our – and all – neighborhoods. West Enders have learned a great deal about drugs in the city as we engaged in dialogue over the licensing of marijuana establishments in our community. We see an increasing number of drug addicts here, and we are concerned. We need to educate ourselves and our children about the addicted community.

One great service comes from The Archdiocese of Boston, which has a special ministry to assist addicted persons and families of addicted persons. AARPSS, the Archdiocesan Addiction Recovery Pastoral Support Services, can be reached through Father Joe frjoe@stjosephboston.com.

On the 21st, join in this neighborhood meeting and learn what actions we can take in dealing responsibly with this growing problem.

Spread the word – all West Enders are welcome, refreshments served.

Are you interested in making a difference in your neighborhood? 

Become a member of the West End Civic Association and join neighbors keeping the West End a special place to live. Take part in one of our many on-going projects – or help start a new one.

As a WECA member, you help ensure our residents’ needs are brought to our city government’s attention.

We can keep our West End neighborhoods, from Charles River Park to North Station, special.

Stand with us to help protect the future of our West End neighborhoods.

For the Coming Year Livingstone’s Legislative Agenda Considers Both District-wide and National Issues

by Dan Murphy • February 7, 2019 •

While State Rep. Jay Livingstone conceived his legislative agenda for the new year with his constituents firmly in mind, he hopes it will also reverberate on a national level.

“I focused on priorities for the district, as well as thinking about how to continue making Massachusetts a leader, which is more necessary now because of what is happening at the federal level,” he said. “One thing that is under attack nationally is women’s reproductive rights…and we want to make it clear that Massachusetts reaffirms women’s reproductive rights.”

Livingstone and Rep. Pat Haddad have filed legislation called “The ROE Act” to protect women’s decisions regarding their own bodies, which has become the “top priority in the legislative term” for the nonprofits NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood.

According to Planned Parenthood, “The ROE Act eliminates the onerous requirement that forces teens to obtain permission from a parent or judge to access abortion. This process causes teens to delay care or travel outside of the state, and is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Another bill that Livingstone filed with Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, aims to raise fees on Uber and Lyft to better align them with the fees levied on ride-sharing services in other states while using the proceeds to improve public transit, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

 “I’m excited to address improving our transportation system and discouraging use of fossil fuels,” Livingstone said. “I think this bill will help address congestion that is increasing at an exponential rate because of these services and decrease transportation pollution as a result.”

Meanwhile, Livingstone and Rep. Andy Vargas have filed new legislation t to further facilitate early voting in all elections.

“I think we should continue to make voting as easy as possible for people to increase participation,” Livingstone said.

http://beaconhilltimes.com/2019/02/07/for-the-coming-year-livingstones-legislative-agenda-considers-both-district-wide-and-national-issues/

Gearing Up: Plans for Bike Lanes on Craigie Bridge Move Forward

by Dan Murphy • January 31, 2019 • 

Following the end of the public comment period on Jan. 22, the state is now moving forward with plans to install dedicated bike lanes on the Craigie Bridge.

Current conditions on the bridge, which carries traffic on the McGrath O’Brien Highway (Route 28) between Land Boulevard in Cambridge and Leverett Circle in Boston, include six travel lanes with no dedicated bike lanes leaving bicyclists to use travel lanes or the sidewalks and no defined turn lane into the Museum of Science, according to The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

MassDOT and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) unveiled two bike-lane options, as well as planned safety improvements for the bridge, on Dec. 18 at the MIT Stratton Student Center in Cambridge.

New safety measures, which are slated for completion by this spring, include changing speed-limit signs to 25 mph; installing “speed feedback” radar signs; conducting road-safety audit; installing pavement-marking change; and installing flex posts if possible, according to MassDOT.

The design team presented two options for creating bike lanes, both of which would eliminate one traffic lane.

The first option, which was developed in 2008, would create continuous on-road bike lanes and maintain the existing sidewalks while providing two travel lanes in each direction and adding a left turn into the Museum of Science.

The alternative is just like the first option, except that it would create three travel lanes into Leverett Circle and restrict left turns into the Museum of Science.

The final design is expected to be presented in the winter of 2019, wrote MassDOT spokesman Maxwell Huber.

“O’Brien Highway is a key bike route between Cambridge and Boston,” according to a statement from the Boston Cyclists Union. “It’s also eight lanes wide in parts, with a high volume of truck traffic and speeding vehicles. Protected bike lanes are absolutely necessary to minimize conflicts on this road.”

The bridge was the site of a fatality on Nov. 9 of last year when 24-year-old Boston University Meng Jin,24, was struck and killed by a dump truck while biking there.

Stacy Thompson, executive director of the Cambridge nonprofit Livable Street Alliance, is pleased that the state is proceeding with the project, albeit more slowly than was originally anticipated.

“Citizens have been advocating for bike lanes since the late ‘90s…and we’ve been asking for these changes for more than a decade,” Thompson said. “There was a commitment when Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation project was complete that they would install the bike lanes, but there were various delays with that bridge and now that it is complete, we still don’t have the bike lanes [on the Craigie].”

While Thompson said she sees no merit in debating which alternative is preferable, especially since they were developed, at least in the case of the first option, more than a decade ago, she emphasizes that “the devil is in the details,” such as connectivity to the Charles River and whether or not buses can make a left turn into the Museum of Science.

“Having strong biking infrastructure is an absolute must, but they still have work to do so that the bridge can move the most people, which includes improving walking and biking infrastructure,” Thompson said.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone also said he was pleased that the project is moving forward while underscoring the bridge’s potentially hazardous conditions. “I think current situation is unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclist, and I think separated bike lanes should be installed with minimal disruption to current traffic,” Livingstone said. “I’m pleased that MassDOT is doing the public process with all stakeholders involved so that everyone has a say.”