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Boston Council to Host Hearing on Pandemic Street Safety Improvements

Councilors Michelle Wu and Liz Breadon

Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu (left) and Liz Breadon. Courtesy of the City of Boston.

On Wednesday, the Boston city council requested a formal hearing to discuss "changes for safe streets during the COVID-19 pandemic and for continued safe mobility throughout a transition to fuller economic activity."

Councilors Michelle Wu and Liz Breadon co-wrote the public hearing order, which will invite representatives from the Boston Transportation Department, advocacy organizations, and the general public.

"Improvements for safe, sustainable mobility will be especially important as Boston enters a recovery period with transition to more economic activity and travel while still requiring physical distancing," states the order's preamble.

The order also cites the city's Vision Zero policy, and makes note of last week's fatal crash at Massachusetts and Harrison Avenues.

"This is very much about safeguarding everyone's health in the immediate term. We are finding it impossible to practice distancing on narrow sidewalks," said Councilor Michelle Wu in a phone interview on Friday. "We need to allocate our public spaces in a way that lets people be safe."

Both councilors also want to start planning for how Bostonians will get around the city when stay-at-home orders begin to lift – whenever that may be.

"It’s important to begin thinking about how, as people return to work, we'll continue to enable safe physical distancing," said Councilor Liz Breadon in a separate phone conversation Friday evening. "This virus is still going to be around for some time to come, so I think we’ll need to take some measures to limit exposure while we also try to get people slowly, deliberately back to work and back to normal life again."

Though the MBTA is outside of the city's jurisdiction, Wu says that transit will be part of the conversation as well.

"We want to talk about ideas like continuing all-door boarding and free fares on buses – which is going to be important for the economic recovery as well – and boosting service levels," she said.

During Wednesday's City Council meeting, Councilors Arroyo, Bok, Campbell, Edwards, Flaherty, Flynn, O'Malley, Mejia, Essabi-George, and Council President Kim Janey all added their names in support, and referred the item to the Committee on Planning, Development, and Transportation to schedule a hearing date.

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