Fourth Plan: East Boston Workshop Deals with Traffic Issues

It’s no secret that traffic is arguably the most pressing issue in East Boston today. Since MassDOT began its project that removed the Sumner Tunnel toll plaza and reconfigured traffic in the area Eastie has been left with a mess for residents and commuters.

This project, coupled with a 47 percent traffic increase increase into the tunnel during the morning commute and the fact that 10 million Uber and Lyft trips a year are using Eastie to pick up and drop off passengers to Logan International Airport, has left residents have been screaming for a solution to the neighborhood’s traffic woes.

East Boston is experiencing a period of tremendous growth with a population increase of 17 percent from 2000 to 2015. This is faster growth than the overall City’s growth of 10 percent over the same time period. While growth has brought welcome investment, increased development pressure has had impacts on the Eastie multimodal transportation and traffic network. According to the MBTA, ridership on the Blue Line has increased 18.1 percent since 2014 while Red Line, Orange Line, and bus ridership has declined during that same period.

Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) hosted the fourth in a series of  PLAN:East Boston workshops last week at East Boston High School.

This workshop focused on transportation and traffic in Eastie. Unlike past workshops were residents broke off into smaller working groups and brainstormed ideas to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, last week’s workshop at EBHS was a bit more informal.

The smaller working groups were replaced by officials from city and state agencies that deal with traffic each and every day in Eastie. Each representative from various departments were able to engage residents and jot down suggestions, ideas as well as listen to complaints of were and when traffic is the worst in the community.

“This is our fourth community event in East Boston,” said BPDA’s Jason Ruggiero. “We are just getting into this process that will most likely take two years. We are hoping to build on our last workshop that concerned open space and resilience. The theme there was ‘connectivity’ so we really want residents to think about the ways they move around the neighborhood, the things they see that work and don’t work as well as suggestions for improving mobility in, out and around East Boston.”

In January the BPDA approved the issuing an Request for Proposals (RFP) to hire a consultant team to assist in the preparation of the PLAN: East Boston Multimodal Transportation Study.

Part of the Plan:East Boston transportation component the BPDA will analyze Eastie’s multimodal transportation network, develop network recommendations for all travel modes, and design and implement time-sensitive recommendations.

The study holistically analyze East Boston’s walking, biking, transit, and street networks and recommend policies, strategies, and improvements that respond to existing traffic issues and support future growth.

Work on the transportation and traffic study is expected to begin in April and completed within 24 months. Key tasks for the consultant selected through this RFP will include Development of neighborhood goals and vision that build on the Go Boston 2030 framework; Identification of transportation analysis areas; Existing and future scenario network analysis for all transportation modes; Written and visual content for the Existing Conditions Report and Neighborhood Plan; Generation and analysis of policies, strategies, and transportation improvement projects for all modes; Alternatives analysis, including planning-level design development and cost estimating; Recommendations and designs for immediate-term network improvements to be implemented during Study development; Recommendations for near-, medium- and long-term transportation improvement projects; as well as technical support and staffing for community and Advisory Group meetings.

“Two years ago Mayor Martin Walsh launched Imagine and Go Boston 2030,” said the City’s Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca, an Eastie resident. “We are here together to imagine our city and imagine our community and how those imaginations can increase better mobility in the future. So we are proud to see so many people here tonight and we want to hear from you.”

Last summer Walsh announced Eastie was chosen as one of five neighborhoods that will be part of the BPDA’s planning initiative as part of an Imagine Boston 2030 effort to ‘preserve, enhance and grow’ the neighborhood.

The city plans to work closely with Eastie community groups, community leaders and other stakeholders to ensure decisions made by the city are following the guiding principles of “preserves wisely, enhances equitably, and grows inclusively.”

As part of the initiative in Eastie comprehensive planning will include a focus on balancing contextually-sensitive development alongside preservation. There will also be a focus on supporting existing residents and businesses through increased access to opportunity, affordability strategies, and anti-displacement policies.

One of the highlights in Eastie will be improving the public realm and access to open space and neighborhood-serving amenities, addressing mobility challenges, and supporting neighborhood resiliency and preparing for climate change.  The city will work with the community in Eastie’s half dozen enclaves with a focus on the the neighborhoods here that are facing increased development pressures. Working with the community the city will determine a shared vision for the future of the neighborhood. Community discussion will focus on preservation of the existing residential fabric, enhancement of the vitality of existing residential communities and businesses, anti-displacement strategies for residents and businesses,

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