Walk on State Street? Public Works wants to make it safer. Make sure to weigh in!

Walk on State Street? Public Works wants to make it safer. Make sure to weigh in!

In January 2020, Boston’s Public Works Department announced they would be taking a look at State Street in downtown Boston for major upgrades. This effort builds on previous planning projects and initiatives that the City of Boston has rolled out over the last few years: GoBoston 2030, Vision Zero, Complete Streets guidelines, and Connect Historic Boston. As the Boston Globe’s Adam Vaccaro put it at the time:

[O]fficials say there’s one primary goal: to make State Street much better for walking. That’s not just a matter of urban idealism: State Street is overwhelmingly used by pedestrians, with more than 29,000 each day compared with about 10,700 cars and trucks.

Everyone can agree there has long been a need to expand the narrow/uneven sidewalks, which especially during lunchtime can be wholly inadequate.

However, there is also a need to make the street easier to cross. In November 2019, a driver struck a 86-year old woman just after the morning rush hour; the woman suffered life-threatening injuries.

One-way streets with multiple lanes of vehicle traffic are inherently dangerous for people walking. When a driver stops for a pedestrian to let them cross at an unsignalized crosswalk, a driver in the second lane may not see the person trying to walk across the street, resulting in a dangerous scenario called the “double threat.”

Over the last year, the Public Works team steadily moved the project along using pre-COVID-19 traffic and parking data for modeling. They convened a group to meet with their team remotely each month throughout the summer to discuss and react to options for this stretch of street that connects the Rose Kennedy Greenway to the Old State House.

In the fall, State Street became one of the locations for a “Healthy Streets” pilot project, in which cones were deployed to create temporary wider-sidewalks and a bike lane to allow for social distancing. It is great that the Transportation and Public Works departments collaborated to test concepts here for a future redesign.

In October, Boston’s Public Works Department (PWD) presented four design options for long-term improvements to State Street. (You can see a PDF of the presentation here, watch a narrated video of the presentation here, and fill out the survey here.)

The Public Works Department is responding to the need to make streets safer for pedestrians, and they need to hear from you now!

The project status is listed as “in design,” and a design survey is currently open. We highly encourage you to weigh in on making this a street that is safer for people walking. More sidewalk space, a protected bike lane, and space for loading zones means less exposure to moving vehicle traffic for people walking, resulting in safer street crossings. There has been pushback that reducing space for people driving is a bad idea, with a claim that these plans are based on pandemic traffic volumes. However, data that informed the concepts are pre-pandemic, as the Public Works Department made clear in the presentations.

Here’s what you can do

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