Commentaries Transportation

Commentary: Tar Pits… What a Mess!

For anyone who has tried to drive or walk on Commercial St. /Atlantic Ave. recently, you’ll appreciate the fact that it’s become an obstacle course. Some misguided individuals have decided to place “bump-outs” every so often, narrow the roadway by removing a lane and create bike lanes. This has to be one of the most heavily trafficked streets in the City especially during the summer months when tourists abound.

Commercial St./Atlantic Ave. as well as North St., Richmond and Hanover St. sidewalks have wide, ugly swatches of black tar interspersed with a mis-mash of concrete, cobblestone, granite and brick. Now there is even a red stripe of paint on the tar at one point, mimicking the Freedom Trail brick path (which itself is in disgraceful condition!) This has created very unsafe, uneven surfaces that are increasingly difficult to navigate. In some places, it’s nearly impossible to cross the street.  If nothing else, this seems to be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Are you listening, Mayor Walsh?

These conditions are unsightly in the very least and do nothing to show “pride of place” to the thousands of tourists from around the globe who come to visit Boston. Being next to our beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway, these unsightly, treacherous streets and sidewalks should be a source of pride for us all rather than one of embarrassment and peril.

It’s time for those of us who live in the North End to encourage the City to restore our streets and sidewalks to safe and even somewhat attractive conditions. welcomes commentaries on community issues via email to or directly at Opinions are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of or other writers on this site. Comments or responses to this commentary can be posted below in the comment section.

13 Replies to “Commentary: Tar Pits… What a Mess!

  1. It is a disgrace the city should be ashamed to allow this in our historic neighborhood they would not do this on Beacon Hill .

  2. So the city must have a big lawsuit coming against the contractor/designer right? I mean why else would they continue to say “wait till the end”. Also, did anyone notice that there is now a permanent one-car width exit from the Lewis Wharf parking lot. That won’t cause any problems right?

    1. From what I understand the city has said they are not going to fix the issues in planning, design and construction.

  3. I personally like the fact that the new uneven level of the pavement between the driveways and the new cycletrack has created a huge castle “moat” effect each time it rains –causing huge ponds of water that collect in between the driveway and the curbing. Is there an engineer among the bunch? Will this be leveled out?

  4. With any project there is always a construction phase and it normally inconvenienst. You should have been here during the Big Dig. Orange cones are a give away that they haven’t finished yet.

    Most heavily trafficked corridor in the city? You show an empty street and pedestirans crossingx against the light?

    This complaining for the sake of complaining. No real arguement, nothing constructive.

  5. This a very one sided view of this project. We live just off Commercial Street and walk every day on and across this project – and we love it. It gives pedestrians priority where we used it have to dodge, dash and pray to a avoid cars, trucks and tour buses.

  6. Exiting Union Wharf is an accident waiting to happen. Cars are still allowed to park close enough that it is difficult if not impossible to exit while hoping no one is coming at an unreasonable rate of speed. The bump out is on the wrong side which contributes to the danger . After it rains there is a huge puddle making it difficult to walk around. I feel the entire project has become a dangerous predicament for residents, pedestrians and bikers.

    1. Thank you Susan. You stated it exactly as it is. I don’t want to wait to be hit before it gets resolved!

  7. I have taken a pretty bad fall on Fulton Street~~~~the bricks on the sidewalk are messed up and slippery when it is raining out, so I walked in the street. An oncoming vehicle persuaded me to move more to my left. As I did that, I lost my footing and went down for the count. My umbrella went flying, and caught the attention of the driver. She saw me laying there and pulled over to help me to get up. She walked me to my home and waited for my daughter to come to my rescue. I think this girl lives in my area, because she said she was looking for a parking spot. She was my guardian angel that night !!! I would love to know who she is, and where she lives so I can thank her properly !!! Anyway, I got pretty well banged up/black eye and all !!! Now I am so very leary to walk in my own neighborhood~~~~what with the bad brick work, the hoses and tubes, and wires at the curb of the sidewalks, the dents and loops in the streets and sidewalks etc. I feel like I take my life in my hands !!! Years ago, when The North End was considered a GHETTO~~~~we NEVER HAD THESE PROBLEMS !!!!!!! Is this what we call PROGRESS ??????????? Thank You for listening.

    1. I believe Richmond St from Atlantic Ave to Fulton is even worse. People fall on that portion all the time. It is heavily traversed by tourists.

      The bricks might look charming, but they tend to collect snow and ice. They tend to frost heave. Lose bricks if you have had ever had to navigate them on crutches are treacherous. The only recourse for a slip and fall is to sue the homeowner who has little choice to prevent the situation, even after pouring salt all over rotting sidewalk that won’t drain properly.

      Nice that someone would stop and help you though. I was glad at how that story ended. Shows that the neighborhood has character regardless of the sidewalks.

  8. There was a mad rush to get the project somewhat complete for the Tall Ships weekend. Since they couldn’t meet that deadline, the project will now just plod along. They’ll get to it when they get to it. Seaport is far more important to Marty.

  9. Those bump outs are horrid——walking from lewis wharf to cross the ave is nearly impossible–as cars are now parked as to impare vision—-add a large suv or truck and its impossible to see any approaching vechiles—I agree-bad planning—can the old street ever return????–I doubt it–

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