Now entering its third summer of construction, the North End cycle track continues to generate tremendous controversy among residents as it nears completion on Commercial Street and Atlantic Avenue. Locals cite increasing public safety concerns due to poor planning along with faulty design and execution. City officials have said they will not do any immediate rework other than to add new signs and increase enforcement.
Most recently, we have received a flurry of emails and photos related to poor sight lines around curves and driveways exacerbated by the narrowing of the vehicle lanes crowding traffic. Other complaints include the loss of resident street parking, inadequate drainage and the aesthetic loss from replacing the waterfront’s red brick sidewalks with concrete. [See Cycle Track to Remove Most Brick on Atlantic Avenue Sidewalks – March 2017] The concrete is already showing signs of wear and cracking in some places. Workers surmised some sidewalks may not have settled correctly when they were poured in cold weather and covered with unevenly heated tarps.
The inconsistent placement of curbs and intersection bump-outs have been identified as mistakes in either design or construction. At Union Wharf, Bill M. wrote the following comment to the city’s project manager regarding the installation of “bump-outs” on the wrong side:
“Quite incredibly, the City and its design consultants have installed “bump outs” on the right side of both the North and South exits of the Union Wharf lots (where ‘bump outs’ are not needed) and have failed to install “bump outs” on the left side of the exits so that a person departing either lot has a clear line of sight to oncoming traffic.”
Commercial Street has become an obstacle course for vehicles and pedestrians now that the cycle track has removed 10 feet+ from the street. Lanes are often blocked by delivery trucks, tour buses and yes, double parking. The stretch along the ball fields and the Charter Street intersection has been a series of “everyday near misses,” according to locals. Walkers trying to cross the street are confronted with a myriad of conflicting traffic signals, 2-way bike traffic and reduced sight lines.
Last year, workers revealed incorrect design measurements around the Charter Street intersection where large vehicles, such as trucks and tour buses, are having difficulty maneuvering in the narrowed lanes. It is possible that the three lanes will have to be reduced to two, one in each direction. Such a change would be down from four lanes before the painted bike lanes were initially installed a few years ago.
Repeated turnover of city project managers assigned to the larger Connect Historic Boston initiative has made the situation worse as the issues pile up. The current head, Kay Barned-Smith, described the complaints as “vociferous.” She says,
I do not have a history of the area, but the level of hostility is a bit bemusing as I am trying to have this addressed in a way that works for all stakeholders.
Regarding the driveway bump-outs, the City has refused to correct the mistakes made in the curbing. Instead, it plans to add signage while increasing ticketing and towing of illegally parked vehicles on Commercial Street.
Barned-Smith says that a “detail design review is needed” but it will have to wait until after the current work is completed. It is not clear why changes are not being approved while the construction equipment is on-site. The Connect Historic Boston initiative was originally budgeted for $23 million of which $15 million is coming through a federal grant. It is possible that changes may have to be paid by the city itself.
Officials have said much of the cycle track will not be paved or completed until well after the Sail Boston “Tall Ships” event in late June. Although the streets will be partially open to vehicles, there will be no parking and limited access with security barriers installed along the waterfront.