On Thursday, June 15th, 2017, the City of Boston hosted a Construction Update Meeting in the gym of the Nazzaro Center. Though information on several different departments and projects were available to the people of the North End, it was a rather low turn out (perhaps because of this). In a series of posts, we are outlining the information presented at the open house style meeting.

Connect Historic Boston / Cycle Track

The Connect Historic Boston project with its cycle track has been controversial. Kay Barned-Smith, the project manager, said “The new designs are safer than the current design of the roads. Hold on for the finished product.” Regarding cycle track complaints, Smith said “Any time we’ve been presented with a problem, I think we have been responsive.”

Reduced sight lines on Commercial Street. (Photo by Larry Smetana)

Residents brought up the reduced sight lines, especially at driveways, including Union Wharf where no bump-out was installed on one side. At the construction update meeting, the Public Works representative said they are going to install “flex-posts” next week with signs for “No Parking.”

Project Manager Barned-Smith recounted the eventual benefits of the reconstructed Commercial Street/Atlantic Avenue, including ADA accessible sidewalks, improved lighting, new traffic signals, separated bike lanes, reduced pedestrian crossing distance (12 feet less) and that narrower roads result in slower traffic.

A number of residents raised the issue of brick sidewalks being replaced with concrete. In neighborhoods that are not dedicated historic districts, it is the City of Boston’s policy to constrict new sidewalks in concrete. The cost of new brick sidewalks is three times that of concrete and they require more maintenance and become a safety issue when settling or after multiple freeze/thaw cycles.

Construction Cost between Brick and Concrete:

  • Concrete Sidewalk Bid Price – $70 per square Yard
  • Brick Sidewalk Bid Price – $250 per square Yard

Despite the recent historical designation of the “Old Waterfront,” officials said the impacts to historic properties were reviewed and approved by the Boston Landmarks Commission, the Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Officer, and the Federal Highway Administration. During design, the tenants of the Battery Wharf Condominiums asked if the bricks could be retained and the City agreed and left that portion of Commercial Street with brick sidewalks.

Some North End residents pushed back. Ashley McCarthy, a Neighborhood Council Member, said “The brick is historic and is one of the many reasons tourists come to the North End.” Another Neighborhood Council Member, Tania Green, said in regards to Battery Wharf keeping the brick because tenants had to ask to keep it, “What precedent does this set? How will Historic Boston affect the aesthetic of the North End?”

View more on the North End cycle track and Connect Historic Boston.

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  1. The North End is not the North End that it all stands for. Its been taken away bit by bit with all the new technology and the construction that has not been kind to the environment. Now the North End is just two words, but really no meaning like back in the day.

  2. At the construction update meeting, the Public Works representative said they are going to install “flex-posts” next week with signs for “No Parking.”

    So we are going to lose more parking spots?

    “Narrower roads result in slower traffic”

    Won’t matter how slow cars are going when they hit each other head on because the roads are so narrow.

    Wish she would explain how the Charter/Commercial St is safer…

    The North End not being a historic district is a joke….

  3. I’m as against this bike lane project as much as anyone, for all the stated reasons (parking, traffic, catering to single transient residents that have no intention of starting a family here), but to say that people come to the North End because of brick sidewalks is obnoxious.

    • totally agree DrewNE, I don’t know where Joe gets his facts from ” catering to single transient residents that have no intention of starting a family here” but there are actually more and more of us who did arrive without children but fell in love with the North End and ARE staying to raise families. I use the new bike paths every day, they are safe and a great commuter option.

  4. I’m 80 years old and live just off the new bike path. I couldn’t be happier to see the brick go. It was hard to walk on in the summer and impossible in the winter. And if vehicle traffic is forced to slow down, I would be delighted. It is time that pedestrians are given some advantages over cars.

  5. As a fellow cyclist and long time Commercial Street resident, I am particularly concerned about the alignment of the storm drains grates in the new bike path. For example, the drain closest to the southwest corner of Union Wharf (Granite Building) still has the grate openings aligned parallel with the direction of the bike path (should always be perpendicular). This is almost certainly an accident (if not a lawsuit) waiting to happen, as it’s very easy for a bike wheel/tire to get caught in these storm drain grates (especially if on a road bike with “skinny” tires). And given that this drain is positioned on what will likely be the northbound side of the bike lane, anyone whose wheel gets caught in this grate will end up taking a header right into the nearby lamppost. Clearly, none of the construction workers who’ve placed these drain covers in this direction rides a bike!

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