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Protected Bike Lanes on Cambridge Street Could Be Part of MGH Project

10:38 AM EDT on May 19, 2021

Parking(ing) Day 2019 on Cambridge Street in Boston

For Park(ing) Day 2019, the Boston Cyclists Union set up a one-block bollard-protected bike lane on Cambridge Street, a busy bike route between the Longfellow Bridge and downtown Boston that currently lacks any bicycling facilities.

The City of Boston is investigating concepts for a "high-comfort bike facility" that could be built on Cambridge Street in conjunction with a major expansion of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) near Charles Circle in Boston.

That, and additional details on a possible new Blue Line station, were among the transportation-related issues that were discussed at a virtual public meeting for the MGH project that was hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) on Tuesday evening.

MGH has filed plans to tear down an existing parking garage and several other buildings between Cambridge, Blossom, North Grove, and Parkman Streets in order to build a pair of towers with roughly one million square feet of space over a large new subterranean parking garage.

As previously reported, the MBTA has been collaborating with the hospital to incorporate a potential new Blue Line station into their building project.

But the construction project also offers the city an opportunity to re-imagine the layout of Cambridge Street, a crucial bike route between downtown Boston and the Longfellow Bridge.

Even in its current condition, without any dedicated bike lanes, between 14 and 17 percent of all vehicles on Cambridge Street are bikes in the morning and evening rush hours, according to City of Boston bike counts.

The GoBoston 2030 transportation plan identifies Cambridge Street as a high-priority corridor for better bike facilities, and the street was also included in the city's pre-pandemic planning for the 'Connect Downtown' bike network.

William Moose, an official representing the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) at the meeting, told attendees that "colleagues of mine in the BTD's Active Transportation (office) are looking at different concepts and what the trade-offs would be for various ways to get a high-comfort bike facility on this corridor."

As of May 2021, plans for the Massachuetts General Hospital expansion do not show any major changes to Cambridge Street, where city plans call for a "high-comfort" bike lane to be built.
As of May 2021, plans for the Massachuetts General Hospital expansion do not show any major changes to the layout of Cambridge Street, where city plans call for "high-comfort" bike lanes to be built between Charles Circle and Government Center. Plans courtesy of the BPDA.

The plans for the MGH project (see image at right) currently do not show any bike lane on Cambridge Street, but Moose stressed that that's because "we just frankly haven't caught up yet" in designing new bike lanes there.

"There's going to be a full design process and public process about what these facilities should look like, and we need to be able to give that direction to MGH for when this frontage is reconstructed for that to be incorporated," Moose said. "It's definitely a priority for the city; it's one that we're actively working on, and we should be able to share some ideas and concepts at some point in the near future."

Near the end of the virtual meeting, Councilor Kenzie Bok said that she and other elected officials had heard "very consistently" from constituents that the city should coordinate transportation improvements with the hospital project.

"If we're going to tear up Cambridge St., it's the moment for the city to get the bike lane piece right, and for us to put a lot of pressure on the state to make the (Red-Blue) connector happen," said Bok. "I just want to underscore as your city councilor that we're hearing all those concerns."

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