The Boston Public Works Department is recommending a major reconfiguration of Mattapan's Cummins Highway to reduce vehicle speeds and add protected bike lanes, but drivers in the neighborhood are pushing back against the city's recommendations.
Cummins Highway links Roslindale Village to Mattapan Square, and is a key point of access to the Blue Hill Avenue station on the Fairmount Line and the Mattapan Square stop of the Red Line. and for the past year, the city has been preparing plans to completely reconstruct the section of the street east of Cavalry Cemetery.
West of Cavalry Cemetery, in the whiter, wealthier neighborhood of Roslindale, Cummins Highway looks and functions like a fairly typical city street: it's only two lanes wide, with faded painted bike lanes and on-street parking at the curbs.
But east of Cavalry Cemetery, where the street enters Mattapan, Cummins Highway widens to four lanes of asphalt with a small concrete median in the center of the roadway. City data indicate that dangerous speeding is much more common in that wide, multi-lane section of the street.
City data also record 119 injury-causing crashes on Mattapan's section of Cummins Highway between 2015 and 2018, including 17 that harmed people walking or biking.
That puts Cummins Highway among the top 3 percent of city-controlled streets for motor vehicle crashes, making it an official part of Boston's "high-crash network."
In the project's previous public meetings, held last April and October, attendees reportedly expressed strong support for designs that would reduce vehicle speeds, shorten crosswalks, and introduce safer bicycle facilities.
At the third public meeting, held last Thursday, city engineers presented their "preferred concept," which would widen sidewalks, create new curb-protected bikeways on both sides of the street, and shorten crosswalks by reducing the number of motor vehicle lanes by half (as pictured in the rendering at the top of this article).
But according to Vivian Ortiz, a Mattapan resident and bicycle transportation advocate, many of last week's meeting attendees expressed skepticism over the city's plans, and asked the city to find some way to improve safety while retaining the four-lane roadway layout.
Still, the city has made clear that it will need to balance the neighborhood's input with citywide policies and design guidelines, including Vision Zero, Go Boston 2030 (which identified Cummins Highway as a priority "complete streets" corridor), and the Fairmont Indigo Initiative.
“In the October meeting and this time, (the city) emphasized over and over again that this is about safety,” said Ortiz. “They told us, ‘You guys have expressed over and over again your frustration over speeding, and this is what we need to do.’”
The city plans to refine its design over the spring, summer, and fall, and will host a final design meeting before the project goes out to bid for construction, which is expected in 2021. A project website has been set up at boston.gov/departments/public-works/cummins-highway.