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Eyes On the Street: Some Curb Appeal In Dorchester and the South End

4:57 PM EDT on May 18, 2023

Orange construction barrels surround a newly-constructed median island surrounded by parked cars on the left and moving vehicles to the right. Two pedestrians are stepping off the island to cross the street, which is lined with multi-story apartment buildings. In the distance on the horizon are visible the Prudential Center and other skyscrapers in Back Bay.

A newly-built bus boarding island on Massachusetts Avenue near its intersection with Columbia Road in Everett Square. This will be the southern end of a new two-way protected bike lane that will extend nearly one mile to the north to Melnea Cass Boulevard.

A protected bike lane project that allegedly started construction a year ago is finally showing some visible signs of progress.

Boston's Massachusetts Avenue Better Bike Project will create a two-way protected bikeway along the western curb of Massachusetts Avenue from Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury to Columbia Road in Dorchester.

Orange construction barrels surround a newly-constructed median island on a wide roadway in an industrial neighborhood.
A newly-constructed bus stop boarding island on Massachusetts Avenue in Dorchester near Clapp Street. The island will help protect a new two-way protected bikeway that's being planned to run along the sidewalk to the right, along the western curb of the street, between Everett Square and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Photographed on May 18, 2023.

Planning for the project began in the fall of 2019,  and there had been little visible progress on the project until this month, when construction crews started building several new bus boarding islands along the western curb of the street (see photos above and below).

Locator map of new protected bike lane projects in the South End (center) and Dorchester (lower right) neighborhoods of Boston. A dashed lane in the lower half of the map represents a new 1-mile bike path along Mass. Ave.; in the upper half of the map, another dashed line running SW to NE indicates another bike lane project along Tremont Street. Solid green lines on the left and upper edges of the map indicate the existing SW Corridor and Melnea Cass bike paths, and the existing Mass. Ave. protected bike lanes in Back Bay.
Protected bike lanes and paths under construction (dashed lines) and completed (solid lines) in the Roxbury and South End neighborhoods of Boston.

In between these islands, the city plans to install modular concrete curbs to protect the new two-way bicycle path from motor vehicle traffic.

Work appears to be moving from south to north; as of Thursday afternoon, excavators were digging out asphalt for a third bus stop and crosswalk at Allstate Road, near the South Bay Center strip mall.

When the project is complete, a new two-way, protected bicycle path will occupy the western edge of Massachusetts Avenue, providing a safer bicycle route between Everett Square in Dorchester and Melnea Cass Boulevard at the edge of the South End.

A few blocks to the north, work is continuing to build new protected bike lanes and improved crosswalks on Tremont Street, between Massachusetts Avenue and Interstate 90.

A few blocks of Tremont in the southwestern end of the project are nearly complete, like this intersection with Pembroke Street:

Tremont Street in the South End. In the right foreground is a newly-installed median island, about the size of a parked car, that is paved in bricks and ringed by a granite curb. To its left are two lanes for two-way car traffic; to its right is an asphalt-paved bike lane, and a second curb at the right edge of the photo delineates the street's sidewalk. Historic brick rowhomes line both sides of the street.
Newly-constructed median islands on Tremont Street, pictured here at the intersection with Pembroke Street in Boston's South End, help narrow the roadway for pedestrians and also create space for new physically-protected bike lanes.

However, many blocks remain under active construction, so while it's tantalizingly close, it's not yet a great bike route between Roxbury and downtown Boston.

In the meantime, though, Tremont has already become much, much easier to cross on foot, and vehicle speeds feel like they're more reasonable, too. With the new median islands installed at most intersections, and ongoing construction at others, most of Tremont Street is now functioning as a two-lane street: no longer is it possible for bad drivers to swerve around slower or stopped vehicles, as they could in the street's former four-lane layout.

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