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.”
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?”