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Seaport Subterfuge: Boston Calls Out Massport for Undermining Summer Street Busway

A conceptual rendering of proposed center-running bus lanes on Summer Street near the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Courtesy of the City of Boston.

City of Boston officials are criticizing the Massachusetts Port Authority for attempting to organize opposition against a signature new bus rapid transit facility on Summer Street though the heart of the Seaport district.

In an email delivered to South Boston business groups earlier this summer, Mike Meyran, Massport's Port Director, asked recipients to lobby City of Boston officials in order to oppose dedicated bus lane projects that have been identified as high priorities in the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan.

That plan, which has been in the works for the past year, recently released a draft list of short-term recommendations for transit improvements in the notoriously traffic-choked Seaport district.

A proposal to build dedicated, center-running bus lanes along Summer Street – a project that could begin construction within the next few months – was among the plan's highest-scoring recommendations. Another high-scoring, low-cost transit improvement – a rapid bus connection between North Station, South Station, and the Seaport – would also rely on a dedicated bus corridor on Summer Street.

In his letter to South Boston businesses, Meyran offered a bulleted list of "main talking points" for businesses to use, including allegations that "dedicated bus lanes could reduce capacity for freight by 50 percent on some important routes like Summer Street" and "ensuring that freight moves quickly through the city is an issue of increased importance."

StreetsblogMASS obtained a copy of Meyran's email after Chris Osgood, Boston's Chief of Streets, and Brian P. Golden, Director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), issued a public open letter on Wednesday afternoon to rebut Meyran's accusations.

In their response, Osgood and Golden firmly rebut the notion that the new bus lane will affect trucking.

"The relevant agencies have agreed to work out how trucks can utilize potential future Summer Street corridor bus lanes," write Osgood and Golden. "This will result in improved freight movement within the Seaport."

The city's letter also observes that Massport itself has been a major source of congestion in the Seaport neighborhood. Massport is a major landowner and developer in the area, and it also controls several streets in the district, including the elevated World Trade Center Ave. and the portion of Seaport Boulevard east of B Street.

In 2017, Massport ensured that thousands of more car trips would clog the neighborhood's streets every day by subsidizing a 1500-space parking garage on top of the World Trade Center Silver Line station.

"Massport has successfully planned, permitted and constructed over 7.4 million square feet of new non-port related development in the South Boston Seaport district," wrote Osgood and Golden in their letter. "Massport needs to be holistic and help create real solutions that serve the needs of the entire South Boston Seaport community and all users... and all modes (of transportation)."

Jennifer Mehigan, Massport's Director of Media Relations, declined to respond to the letter from City of Boston officials when StreetsblogMASS reached out for comment on Thursday.

“We will continue to work with all stakeholders to meet the transportation needs of all parties in the district,” wrote Mehigan in an email message.

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