Boston Plots ‘Complete Streets’ Upgrades for Andrew Square Neighborhood

A rendering of a future Dorchester Avenue, looking north from Alger Street. As new apartments and office buildings replace warehouses along Dorchester Ave. in South Boston, the BPDA plans ask abutters to set aside  space for protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Courtesy of the BPDA.
A rendering of a future Dorchester Avenue, looking north from Alger Street. As new apartments and office buildings replace warehouses along Dorchester Ave. in South Boston, the BPDA plans ask abutters to set aside space for protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Courtesy of the BPDA.

Boston city planners are planning projects that will improve safety and upgrade bike and pedestrian infrastructure on several major streets in the vicinity of Andrew Square in South Boston, and some of the upgrades could happen as soon as this summer, according to city officials.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) is in the midst of writing a new transportation plan for the Dorchester Avenue corridor in South Boston, in the triangle-shaped district between Old Colony Avenue and the Broadway and Andrew Square Red Line stations.

The BPDA's 2016 land use concept for the Dorchester Avenue corridor in South Boston. Courtesy of the BPDA.
The BPDA’s 2016 land use concept for the Dorchester Avenue corridor in South Boston. Courtesy of the BPDA.

The area, which is currently a district of low-rise industrial buildings and large parking lots, is attracting intense interest from real estate developers for its close-to-downtown location and excellent transit accessibility.

In a 2016 planning report, the BPDA laid the groundwork to permit a massive influx of apartments and office buildings in the neighborhood, and the agency is currently reviewing over a dozen building proposals nearby.

Since then, the BPDA has kicked off a follow-up transportation study to support that vision and redesign the neighborhood’s streets to accommodate the growth while also supporting the mode-shift goals of the city’s climate plan, which aims to cut citywide motor vehicle use dramatically in the coming decade.

Upgrades to the Red Line that are already underway are expected to accommodate much of the neighborhood’s new growth, but the plan also calls for a large increase in trips by bus, on foot, and by bike, which will require wider sidewalks, new bus lanes, a new, more connected street grid, and new bikeways.

Much of the proposed infrastructure will be built in pieces over the coming decades, parcel by parcel, in conjunction with redevelopment projects.

But in a December public hearing, the city has also shared its plans for several “short term” improvements, focused on Dorchester Street, Old Colony Avenue, and Andrew Square, that would deliver better biking and walking conditions much sooner.

Andrew Square: a Vision Zero focus area

Andrew Square is a complex, six-way junction with heavy bike and pedestrian traffic due to its proximity to the Andrew Red Line station. In September 2020, a truck driver struck and killed a woman standing in one of the square’s median islands, and MassDOT’s crash database indicates that at least three other injury-causing crashes have happened in the vicinity since 2018.

Andrew Square 2021 Vision Zero safety project plan
A draft plan for safety upgrades in Andrew Square that could be implemented in spring or summer 2021. Courtesy of the Boston Transportation Department.

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) has drawn up plans for a “rapid response” safety project that aims to improve the safety of Andrew Square’s crosswalks with wider medians and curb extensions. The project would also add flexposts to better delineate the bike lanes from the driving lanes on Dorchester Avenue, which is the most direct bike route between Dorchester and downtown Boston.

The city also plans to modify the traffic signals to reduce risks from turning vehicles. In an email, a BTD official said that this project’s design is still being refined, but the intersection is a high priority, and the safety improvements are targeted for implementation this spring or summer.

Andrew Square roundabout concept plan
A long-term conceptual plan for a “peanut” roundabout in South Boston’s Andrew Square. Courtesy of the BPDA.

In the longer term, the BPDA’s transportation plan suggests that Andrew Square could be converted into a “peanut” roundabout like Worcester’s new Kelley Square, with physically-separated bike lanes, raised crosswalks, and new bus lanes on Southampton Street to accommodate increased bus service to Nubian Square.

Calming Dorchester Street and Old Colony Ave.

Another high-crash intersection in the neighborhood is located at the intersection of Dorchester Street and Old Colony Avenue, both of which are currently high-speed, four-lane roadways with no dedicated space for bike traffic.

A conceptual plan for short-term improvements to the Old Colony Ave. intersection with Dorchester Street, east of Andrew Square. Both streets currently feature two motor vehicle lanes in each direction, and no bike lanes. Courtesy of the BPDA.
A conceptual plan for short-term improvements to the Old Colony Ave. intersection with Dorchester Street, east of Andrew Square. Both streets currently feature two motor vehicle lanes in each direction, and no bike lanes. Courtesy of the BPDA.

Concept plans shared by the BPDA in December (at left) suggest that the intersection of those two streets could be reconfigured with paint to subtract one motor vehicle lane on each street and replace them with buffered bike lanes and dedicated left-turn lanes.

The reconfiguration would also provide wider painted medians in each crosswalk.

“There is a good chance those designs could be implemented later this year, but the schedule has not been determined yet,” wrote a BTD official.

2020 long-term concept for Old Colony Ave. at Dorchester St. in South Boston
In the long-term, plans call for protected bike lanes on Dorchester Street and Old Colony Ave. Courtesy of the BPDA.

In the longer term, another BPDA concept sketch (at right) suggests rebuilding the junction as a “protected intersection” with new curbs at each corner to shorten crosswalks and physically separate the bike lanes and crosswalks from turning cars.

 

Protected bike lanes on Old Colony Ave.

Another project that the BPDA describes as a “short-term” initiative would create parking-protected bike lanes along Old Colony Ave. between Dorchester Ave. and Moakley Park by repurposing one car lane in each direction.

In its December presentation, the city also shared a conceptual plan to reconfigure the sharp-angled intersection of Dorchester Avenue, Old Colony, and West Seventh Street by removing slip lanes and widening sidewalks:

A conceptual plan for pedestrian improvements at the corner of Dorchester Ave. and Old Colony Ave. Courtesy of the BPDA.
A conceptual plan for pedestrian improvements at the corner of Dorchester Ave. and Old Colony Ave. Courtesy of the BPDA.

BTD officials say there’s “no clear timeline” for the Old Colony Avenue projects, but added that the plans have been well received so far.

 

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