Car-Free State Street Is A Possibility In City Reconstruction Project

The City of Boston Department of Public Works is soliciting ideas and feedback for a planned reconstruction of State Street between the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Old State House.

Planners from the City of Boston solicited ideas for a reconstruction project on State Street in downtown Boston on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019.
Planners from the City of Boston solicited ideas for a reconstruction project on State Street in downtown Boston on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019.

On Thursday, planners and engineers from the City of Boston installed a pop-up park on State Street in downtown Boston to solicit ideas and feedback from passerby about a planned reconstruction project that would completely rebuild the street between the Old State House and the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

State Street is a heavily-trafficked pedestrian route for office workers and tourists, but its existing sidewalks are narrow, in poor condition and create accessibility issues for wheelchair users. According to city data, nearly twice as many people travel on State Street on foot as by motor vehicle, but the vast majority of the street’s public space is set aside for cars and trucks.

City data show that the majority of State Street's users are on foot, but most of the street's space is set aside for cars and trucks.
City data show that the majority of State Street’s users are on foot, but most of the street’s space is set aside for cars and trucks.

On Wednesday, planners from the Boston Department of Public Works and Boston Transportation Department cited those statistics to frame conversations about what a new, completely rebuilt State Street could look like. From a pop-up open house occupying one of State Street’s parking spaces, planners handed out Halloween candy and asked passerby to stop and participate in a sticky-dot exercise to gauge support for a range of concepts illustrated on presentation boards.

One of the more popular ideas on display was a car-free street concept (shown below).

“It’s something we’ve been looking at,” said Ashley Biggins, a Senior Civil Engineer for the Boston Public Works Department who is managing the project. “If people support that idea, it could be a possibility.”

Banning cars from State Street could have significant traffic-reduction benefits on other downtown streets, including Congress and Court Streets around Boston City Hall. It would also represent a significant achievement in Mayor Walsh’s effort to cut car use in half by 2030 in order to meet the city’s climate change reduction goals.

The city has set up a webpage for the project and is soliciting additional feedback through an online survey.

A schedule for the project has not been determined, and would be dependent on the scope of the reconstruction plan, according to Biggins.

On Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, planners from the City of Boston asked passerby to vote for a range of potential street design elements as they plan for a reconstruction project on State Street in downtown Boston.
On Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, planners from the City of Boston asked passerby to vote for a range of potential street design elements as they plan for a reconstruction project on State Street in downtown Boston.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Worcester City Hall and the newly rebuilt Main Street, pictured in December 2020.

It’s Worcester Week on StreetsblogMASS

|
We’re focusing our coverage this week on Worcester, New England’s second-biggest city. After decades of destructive urban renewal schemes, Worcester can be a challenging place to get around for people who don’t own a car. Compared to the rest of Massachusetts, Worcester has higher-than-average rates of injury-causing crashes, and lower rates of transit ridership. Which […]
Batteries can't fix this: a midday traffic jam on I-93 in downtown Boston.

Guest Column: Electric Cars Won’t Save Us

|
To meet its climate goals, Massachusetts will need to eliminate gasoline-powered vehicles from the state’s roadways within the next 25 years. But the Commonwealth’s new decarbonization roadmap aims to accomplish this not with improvements to transit and safer streets, but with widespread subsidies for new electric vehicles. Massachusetts is home to many of the world’s […]