A decade and a half after the official completion of the "Big Dig," the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is getting ready to transfer a dozen surface street segments around the Rose Kennedy Greenway back to the City of Boston's control.
The affected streets include Cross Street and Atlantic Avenue, the two streets that run along the east side of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway Surface Road and Purchase Street, on the west side of the Greenway, plus connecting cross-streets through the Greenway, between Hanover Street in the north, and Oliver Street/Seaport Boulevard in the south (see map at left).
"This was an agreement between the City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts prior to the construction of the BigDig whereupon we gave control of particular streets to the Commonwealth for design and construction purposes until the project was completed," explained Chris Coakley, a spokesperson for the Boston Public Works Department, in an email to StreetsblogMASS.
In 2013, the segment of Atlantic Avenue between the North End and South Station was also envisioned as part of the "Connect Historic Boston" project, which would have built a loop of protected cycle tracks around downtown neighborhoods (pictured below). That plan won a competitive federal grant funding in 2013, but only two segments of that proposal - on Commercial Street and Causeway Street in the North End - were ever built.
"These streets are key pieces to a connected network, and should be a priority for the city in the next few years," says Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists' Union (disclosure: Wolfson also serves on the StreetsblogMASS Board of Directors). "The Rose Kennedy Greenway is an important greenspace, especially with all the investment that the city has put into activating that space, but there's no way to get to it or ride along it safely by bike."
Wolfson also noted that the existing paint-only bike lanes on Atlantic Avenue and the J.F.K. Surface Road are frequently blocked by hotel valet parking, taxis, and rideshare vehicles in front of the numerous hotels that line the Greenway.
In fact, Mayor Michelle Wu made the same observation in 2016, when she was still a city councilor: