Ward 1 Council Voices Opposition to Bennington Street Project

By Adam Swift

Revere Ward 1 City Councillor Joanne McKenna does not want to see MassDOT install a bike lane as part of a redesign of Bennington Street into East Boston.

In the past, state officials have stated that the project would eliminate a travel lane in either direction, with the main focus of the pilot program is to slow down traffic, increase safety, and potentially tie into larger regional traffic and bicycle and pedestrian traffic initiatives.

At last week’s city council meeting, the council supported a motion made by McKenna to send a letter of opposition to the project to MassDOT. McKenna said the project will negatively impact the residents of Beachmont by narrowing the emergency evacuation route out of the neighborhood and for neighboring Winthrop residents.

“When we thought of storms occurring every 100 years, they are occurring every month now,” said McKenna. “It seems like they are occurring in Beachmont and in some other parts of the city. We have MassDOT that wants to eliminate lanes for an evacuation way to get out, and it is just ridiculous.”

McKenna showed her fellow councillors several photos of backed up traffic in the Beachmont and Bennington Street area when a lane was closed recently due to flooding.

“People were trying to get out of Beachmont to go to Winthrop, and they couldn’t,” said McKenna. “They were going down dead end streets and not realizing it was water or the marsh, and turning around. It was a nightmare.”

If MassDOT goes ahead with eliminating a lane on Bennington, McKenna said it could cause major issues stuck in their houses and not able to leave the area during a major flooding event.

Councillor-at-Large Robert Haas, III asked if the council could get in touch with MassDOT to have them explain the plans and listen to concerns.

McKenna noted that the council has tried to set up a meeting with MassDOT and has not heard back.

“They want to change everything, but they don’t come and tell the people they are going to do it to, they just do it,” said McKenna.

Ward 5 Councillor Angela Guarino-Sawaya said she supported McKenna’s motion, and asked if there was a way the city could hold MassDOT responsible for not listening to its concerns.

Council President Anthony Cogliandro said he supported sending the letter, but was not optimistic that MassDOT would listen to the concerns.

“Ultimately, they are going to do what they want,” said Cogliandro. “There is a difference between moving forward into the future and being dragged there … and that is sometimes what it feels like.”

In addition to the letter, Councillor-at-Large Michelle Kelley said there could be a petition from the city and residents outlining the negative impact of the proposal and the opposition to it.

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