Downtown Boston has a new shining example of how a safe, complete street should be designed, as construction wraps on the first phase of reconstruction for Summer Street in the Fort Point neighborhood.
The project brings wider sidewalks, generous street furnishings, shorter and more visible crosswalks, and protected bike lanes to a short section of Summer Street between Fort Point Channel and the viaduct over the Boston Wharf Road.
It's a beautiful improvement and a signature example of how Boston's streets can live up to their potential as safe, attractive public spaces.
But it's also strikingly short: the reconstruction project spans only 1,000 feet of Summer Street, from Fort Point Channel to the west, and to the viaduct over the Boston Wharf Road at the edge of the historic warehouse district to the east. Beyond those extents, Summer Street remains a wide, motor-vehicle-oriented speedway, with only token accommodations for bikes and pedestrians.
And as users of the new bike lanes have observed, the transition from the protected bikeway to the unprotected shared lanes near the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) is frequently blocked by parked cars:
All this means that major destinations along Summer Street – including South Station and the Rose Kennedy Greenway downtown and the BCEC to the east – remain just out of reach of the current project's pleasant bikeways and sidewalks.
The Go Boston 2030 plan, adopted in 2017, highlighted Summer Street as a short-term project that could improve crosstown mobility from South Station through the Seaport district to South Boston. With that goal in mind, a line in the city's most recent capital budget shows additional money in the budget for a second phase, which "will extend from BCEC towards South Boston."
Additional work may be done in conjunction with the planned "Seaport Square" project, which would build new high-rise buildings on the adjacent parking lots between Boston Wharf Road and the BCEC.
In an email message, Tracey Ganiatsos, a spokesperson for the Boston Transportation Department, confirmed that "the plan is still in the public process stage and further discussion with stakeholders will be taking place."