One of the longest, widest stretches of brick sidewalks in the North End / Waterfront neighborhood will disappear this Spring to make way for dedicated bike lanes, called cycle tracks.
The area from Eastern Ave (Lewis Wharf) to Commercial Wharf will be replaced with concrete sidewalks, not brick, on the waterside of the street, according to Boston Public Works Project Manager Kay Barned-Smith. On the landside of the street, work is confined to intersections in order to install new signalization and ramps so most of the existing sidewalk will remain.
The city’s position is that “most brick does not provide a safe, accessible path for the visually impaired and disabled community. As the City reconstructs areas, it has as a priority the regrading of areas to meet ADA (Americans Disability Act) standards of slope and accessibility.” During the planning meetings, there was limited discussion regarding the existing sidewalks, although city officials indicated they would be upgrading sidewalks to meet ADA standards.
Bricks are often considered a characteristic of “historic Boston”, so there is some irony that the “Connect Historic Boston” project will replace the red bricks with grey cement on the harbor side sidewalks of Atlantic Avenue and Commercial Street.
A very limited area that will remain brick is around Battery Wharf where it is new wire-cut brick, and it meets grading requirements of ADA.
Connect Historic Boston will restart work this week with two crews operating. One crew will be working in Keany Square to reconfigure that intersection, and one crew will be working on Commercial St./Atlantic Ave continuing with cycle track, roadway and sidewalk construction.
Cycle signals along the track are in the process of being wired and will begin working this Spring, according to the city work schedule. Another issue of concern has been sight lines around driveways. Several condo properties along Commercial Street and Atlantic Avenue have contacted officials about safety concerns around intersections and driveways where it is difficult to turn in and out of the street.
More information on the North End Cycle Track Project can be found at the Connect Historic Boston website: www.cityofboston.gov/publicworks/connecthistoricboston/