Mayor Marty Walsh spoke to the Wharf District Council on July 16th, covering a range of issues from building seawalls along Boston’s waterfront to dealing with the city’s ever increasing traffic congestion.
Climate resiliency is high priority for Walsh as he announced an ambitious plan to build seawalls and burns to protect against flooding. “We are building a seawall along the entire inner Boston Harbor,” he said. “And, we’re covering it with grass, trees and walkways to really create something special.” He contrasted Boston’s plan with what he saw recently in NYC where submerged barriers are being built to rise up around key buildings, leaving the streets, utilities and public transportation exposed to flooding. “We’re also going to bring the coastline back to people,” he emphasized regarding a new Harborwalk-like strategy. “One of the criticisms has been that we walled off the waterfront … when our 47-mile plan is done, this will connect people back to the harbor,” he added. (6:00 minute mark in video)
WDC attendees asked the Mayor the most questions regarding traffic and congestion in the city. Walsh gave a myriad of answers to traffic concerns, including the city’s increasing use of dedicated bus lanes and creating additional space for bikes. Additionally, Walsh announced a complete reconfiguration of State Street, that will feature bike lanes and a new design for cars and pedestrians. He also advocated for a significant increase in State infrastructure and dedicated transportation funding.
“I’ve been pretty quiet on the MBTA, listening and working with the Governor. But these last two train derailments (on the T’s Red Line) are the last straw because we need a system that works. These investments need to be fast-tracked, with a deadline.” He noted that his support for the Olympics in Boston was largely based on getting accelerated transportation investments finished by 2023. (11:00 in video)
There were several questions regarding Uber and Lyft creating more traffic. Walsh said the city does not have direct control to regulate these services, but is trying to work with State officials as well as the companies themselves. “I don’t want to limit it, but regulate it. We only get 10 cents per ride for three years,” Walsh said.
Regarding the Northern Avenue Bridge, he reiterated his belief that a new bridge needs to handle some type of vehicle traffic, along with dedicated bike and pedestrian paths. He is also hopeful there could be some type of outdoor shopping areas. “By this time next year, the Northern Avenue Bridge will be fully funded in our budget,” said Walsh. (19:00 in video)
The Mayor commended Boston Police for bringing down violent crime in the city by 10% despite a recent increase in shootings. He noted the latest academy class is Boston’s most diverse and that District A-1 (Downtown, North End) will be getting 18 more officers after several years of no increases. These new officers will significantly give the city more flexibility to address enforcement and patrol issues, including traffic at intersections.
In response to a question about the Harbor Garage development, Walsh emphasized the 50% open space requirement and supports some type of project to replace the aging garage. He received groans from an audience with many Harbor Tower residents after saying, “Something is going to be built there. When the Harbor Towers were built, some people also said it was going to ruin the waterfront.” He also noted the garage is private property, owned by the Chiofaro Company and Prudential. An attendee pushed back, “you approved the waterfront plan that is allowing it to go forward at 60 stories high. The city could have limited the height via zoning.” She added, “When you add 60 stories-worth of traffic onto Atlantic Avenue, where are they going to go?” (31:00 in video)
View all of Mayor Walsh’s remarks to the WDC in the video above, along with the Q&A session.