Boston Proposes 2-Way Protected Bikeway for Mass. Ave. in Dorchester

A rendering illustrates the City of Boston's proposal to add a two-way protected bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue between Melnea Cass Boulevard and Columbia Road in Dorchester. Courtesy of the City of Boston.
A rendering illustrates the City of Boston's proposal to add a two-way protected bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue between Melnea Cass Boulevard and Columbia Road in Dorchester. Courtesy of the City of Boston.

The City of Boston is proposing to calm traffic and improve safety for bicyclists on Massachusetts Avenue by installing a protected, two-way bike path along the western edge of the street between Melnea Cass Boulevard and Columbia Road in Dorchester.

The city has been meeting with street users, local businesses, and members of the public since last fall to design safer bicycling facilities for this section of Mass. Ave., which was identified as a priority “Better Bike Corridor” in the city’s Go Boston 2030 plan, and is also among the city’s worst streets for injury-causing motor vehicle crashes, according to data from the city’s Vision Zero program.

The “Mass. Ave. South Better Bike Corridor” project traverses a predominantly industrial district, with heavy volumes of truck traffic, between the South End and Dorchester. Near its midpoint, the corridor passes by the Newmarket station on the MBTA’s Fairmount Line and a neighborhood of hundreds of new apartments that are being built at the South Bay Center shopping mall.

In the city’s proposal, which is detailed in a newly-published “online open house,”  the westernmost lane of Mass. Ave. would be converted into a two-way cycletrack – essentially a protected bicycle path, separated from traffic with low concrete barriers – along the western curb of the street.

By consolidating bike traffic along the street’s western curb, where there are fewer driveways, project designers say that the new cycletrack will minimize the “severe safety issues” associated with turning cars and large trucks.

A sketch of the City of Boston's proposal to add a two-way protected bikeway, floating bus stops, and improved crosswalks to Massachusetts Avenue in Dorchester. This sketch illustrates plans for the Enterprise St. intersection, near the South Bay Center. Courtesy of the City of Boston.
A sketch of Boston’s proposal to add a two-way protected bikeway, floating bus stops, and improved crosswalks on Massachusetts Avenue in Dorchester. This sketch illustrates plans for the Enterprise St. intersection, near the South Bay Center. Courtesy of the City of Boston.

The project would also add median barriers to restrict unsafe motor vehicle turning movements at some intersections, rebuild accessible curb ramps at crosswalks, and build five new “floating” bus stop islands between the new cycletrack and the rest of the street.

The Boston Cyclists Union has made protected bike lanes on this section of Mass. Ave. one of its priority advocacy campaigns. On Monday morning, its executive director, Becca Wolfson, wrote in an email to Streetsblog that she was “thrilled” with the city’s plan.

“In talking with people who use the corridor and thinking about the safest options, we had thought a two-way (cycletrack) on the west side of the street would be best… The addition of new crosswalks and floating bus islands and updated signal timing mean this will truly function as a safe, accessible, multi-modal corridor,” wrote Wolfson (editor’s note: Wolfson also serves on the StreetsblogMASS board of directors).

“The only element of the plan we are not happy to see – and are actively pushing to change – is the new timeline of implementation in 2021.” Wolfson expressed hope that the city could roll out the proposed improvements sooner – possibly with temporary materials, as the city is doing on Cummins Highway in Mattapan.

In separate projects, the city is also working on safety improvements for the section of Mass. Ave. north of Melnea Cass, though the Boston Medical Center campus, where drivers have have killed four people in crashes since 2017. At a May meeting of the Boston’s Vision Zero Task Force, City of Boston staff shared conceptual plans for a project that would install a protected bikeway between Harrison Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Melnea Cass Boulevard itself is also under construction in a project that will add protected bike lanes extending all the way to the Southwest Corridor – but that project isn’t expected to be complete until 2024.


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