Tag: congress street

Transportation Advocates Letter on Congress St / Fort Point Design

Transportation Advocates Letter on Congress St / Fort Point Design

June 17, 2022
Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Chief of Streets, City of Boston
Arthur Jemison, Chief of Planning, City of Boston
Pat Hoey, Senior Project Manager, Boston Transportation Department

Re: Congress Street, Fort Point Design

Dear Chief Franklin-Hodge, Chief Jemison and Mr. Hoey:

Our collective organizations offer joint comments on the Congress Street Fort Point Design that was recently presented at a public meeting.

Thank you for recommending a design that will create a safer, more attractive street that slows speeds and includes more space for people walking and biking.

Our support for the proposed design, and for a Congress Street that is not used as a corridor to connect buses to North Station, comes from our belief that the South Station-North Station bus connection concept that the City is putting forward will make some of the important improvements that are needed to enhance transit access from the north to the South Boston Seaport where it is so urgently needed.

However, we continue to have questions about the serious transit needs in this booming part of the City, and the planning required to allow the neighborhood’s residents, businesses and workers to thrive in the years ahead. We would like to meet with you again to discuss our comments and provide our thoughts on the South Boston Seaport Transit Plan (within which the Congress Street Fort Point Design sits). Specifically, we would like to touch base on the following elements of the transit plan:

  • Accessible walking between South Station and A Street, including both Melcher Street and the replacement of the Summer Street/A Street stairways. We understand that progress is being made on both of these issues.
  • Bus network redesign and the City’s anticipated comments to the MBTA, including:
    • The need for two-way bus service on A Street
    • Planning for Seaport Boulevard/North Station bus connection
  • Bike network planning, including a review of possible protected bike lanes on the Evelyn Moakley Bridge
  • The status of the Northern Avenue Bridge project
  • Update on the City’s interagency efforts with the MBTA, MassDOT, Massport and the BCEC, and how we can be helpful in supporting this needed collaboration

Additionally, as the design moves forward, we request that a curb management plan be developed that specifically addresses loading and passenger pick-up/drop-off. We believe that this is important both for the safety of people walking and biking and for the economic health of the area businesses. It will also help to build broad support among stakeholders for the redesign.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the plan. We look forward to working with you in the months ahead.


Tom Ready, FPNA
Stacy Thompson, Executive Director, LivableStreets
Stacey Beuttell, Executive Director, WalkBoston
Wendy Landman, Senior Policy Advisor, WalkBoston
Becca Wolfson, Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union
Galen Mook, Executive Director, Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Jarred Johnson, Executive Director, TransitMatters

Comments on the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage MEPA #15134

Comments on the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage MEPA #15134

July 11, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: Holly Johnson
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage MEPA #15134

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

WalkBoston reviews significant proposed development projects to provide comments about their impacts on pedestrians, and to suggest measures that may mitigate negative impacts or generally improve the projects for walkers.

We have reviewed the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage and find exciting aspects of the project that will benefit walkers. These include:

Enhancement of a major pedestrian-transit hub
The East Parcel contains a high-volume transit hub with extensive pedestrian access. Access to the Orange and Green Line Haymarket Station access points will be maintained, as will access to the many MBTA bus services. Some of the difficult pedestrian crossings to the site will be improved by narrowing the width of the New Sudbury Street and thus the length of the crosswalks at its intersection with Congress Street.

The sidewalk through the East Parcel
The new pedestrian connection proposed for this project between Congress Street and Canal Street respects a traditional walking route between Downtown and North Station. This route will see more intensive use over the coming years as the significant developments at North Station and at this site occur, and the proposed design reflects the many circulation activities that are required of this parcel.

A new signalized intersection for Bowker Street
The proposed signalized intersection at New Chardon Street and Bowker Street is a welcome addition for pedestrians. The nearby intersection of New Chardon and Congress Street is skewed in such a way that the crossing is very long and is inconvenient for walkers going to the courthouse across the street. The new crosswalk makes the move much more convenient.

Improvements to on-site parking
As parking ceases to be the principal use of this site, the plan is much less auto-oriented. A reduction of number of available parking spaces reduces vehicles circulating around the site for access. This is accompanied by a reduction in the number of places where vehicles must cross sidewalks, enhancing pedestrian safety. The removal of garage access from New Chardon Street and its potentially busy sidewalks is a major pedestrian benefit of the proposal.

In addition to these project benefits, we also note several issues that need more attention.

Weather protection for walkers
The current garage has the unusual benefit of covering the bus waiting area and access to the transit station below, thus protecting walkers from rain and snow. Removing the garage and opening up the area for new development is beneficial to the project, and we believe that Figure 1.8 shows that the new structure will also provide cover for the bus station area. However, no cover for the subway entrance area is shown. The diagrams are less than clear on this point and we ask the developer to clarify how the bus waiting area and subway entrance areas will be designed and whether they will be covered.

Widths of sidewalks
Pedestrian improvements included in the project will improve safety at crosswalks and along the major streets. A note suggests that the current sidewalks widths are varied throughout the project, and are “rarely less than eight feet wide.” We trust that the standards for future sidewalk widths in this pedestrian-friendly project will be considerably wider and in keeping with the City’s complete street guidelines.

Services provided at the bus station
Six bus stops are proposed in the redesign of the bus station. Three of the stops will be in the area where they are now located, and three stops will be provided by a nominal widening at the side of the Central Artery Surface Road. The design and operation of the bus stops is critical for pedestrian safety and convenience. We ask that the proponent provide detailed diagrams and sketches of how this area will operate and ensure that bus patrons are well served by the new design.

Truck loading bays facing New Chardon Street
New Chardon Street is the major Downtown/North End access to and from the Central Artery (I-93). Four truck loading docks are proposed for the section of New Chardon between Congress Street and the on- and off-ramps leading to the I-93. The site plan suggests that trucks will back into these docks from the street travel lanes across the sidewalk on this side of the East Parcel. Unless use of the docks are restricted to the middle of the night it is difficult to comprehend how trucks backing into place across the sidewalk on a ramp to I-93 can be safely accommodated. We request that the proponent describe this element of the project in detail, including how pedestrian safety will be maintained.

Cut-ins on sidewalks
Cut-ins are proposed on three sides of the East Parcel and two sides of the West Parcel:
1. New Seabury Street near the Surface Artery
2. New Chardon Street near Canal Street
3. New Chardon Street near Bowker Street
4. Congress Street Near New Sudbury Street toward Leverett Circle
5. Congress Street near New Sudbury Street toward State Street

Although not well defined in the DEIR, a cut-in appears to be a pull out lane that reduces the width of the sidewalk to accommodate vehicles. The drawings in the DEIR show these indentations only vaguely but imply that a cut-in is a lane for vehicles separate from the adjacent thoroughfare but parallel to it.

The next stage of development of the project should include details of:

  •  Why the cut-ins are needed in each of the five locations?
  • How they are proposed to be used (back-in, parallel movement, etc.)?
  • How they relate to, or potentially conflict with, all major adjacent pedestrian flows?
  • Design guidelines that include minimum widths for adjacent sidewalks or crosswalks, as well as bollards or other protections for walkers. We are concerned that the sidewalks seem quite narrow adjacent to some of the proposed cut-ins.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.


Wendy Landman                                 Robert Sloane
Executive Director                              Senior Project Manager

Government Center Garage Redevelopment Environmental Notification Form EOEA #15134

Government Center Garage Redevelopment Environmental Notification Form EOEA #15134

February 7, 2014

Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Government Center Garage Redevelopment Environmental Notification Form (ENF)

EOEA #15134

Dear Secretary Sullivan,

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Environmental Notification Form (ENF) for the Government Center Garage Redevelopment.

The proposal calls for partial demolition of the underutilized Government Center Garage as an early action, with subsequent demolition and redevelopment to take place over a number of years. Initial demolition will result in opening Congress Street to daylight and allowing redevelopment of the East Parcel, including a new public plaza and pedestrian connection between the Bullfinch Triangle and Greenway. The east parcel is a critical pedestrian link between Downtown Boston and North Station/Bulfinch Triangle, as well as a link to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The total development will include 812 new housing units, 196 new hotel rooms, over one million gross square feet of office, and 82,500 gross square feet of retail. The garage will continue to provide sufficient parking for the new onsite uses, commercial parking for transient users as well as overnight resident parking.

We offer the following comments:

1. We believe the proposed development will improve the area for pedestrians compared to existing conditions. The existing garage is a large, foreboding structure from the pedestrian viewpoint. While the potential removal of the garage and the reopening of Congress Street to the sky is appealing in its own right, the proposed development offers additional benefits. As the project is refined during subsequent reviews, MEPA and the BRA must ensure that these benefits are not lost during revisions or project changes. We trust that any project approval will condition the following proposed improvements to ensure they are included in the final design:

  • The removal of overhead parking decks and associated office space, returning sunlight to Congress Street.
  • The proposed pedestrian-only extension of Canal Street through the newly-configured east parcel that greatly benefits heavy rush-hour foot traffic to/ from North Station.
  • The narrowing and redesign of Sudbury Street, including elimination and replacement of angled Police Department parking from the right-of-way.
  • The extension of Bowker Street to make it a through street, eliminating the stairs between Sudbury Street and the existing dead end of Bowker Street.
  • The project could potentially provide very substantial benefits that would have a lasting effect on the built environment of the immediate neighborhood and the entire downtown core of Boston. Careful attention must be paid to the pedestrian experience in and around the site to take advantage of its tremendous pedestrian and transit access. The project is positioned to capitalize on these features and it is incumbent upon MEPA, the BRA and the City of Boston to ensure that the final design fully accounts for these opportunities.

2. Curb cuts for the garage – All curb cuts provided for the new garage should be kept to a minimum width, should enter the street at a right angle, and should be at sidewalk grade (no curb cut for pedestrians). Appropriate vehicle exiting warning signs must be provided for pedestrian safety. The existing garage access drives are too wide and pedestrians on the sidewalk are often threatened by automobiles traveling at high speeds into and out of the garage’s overly wide parking access ramps.

3. MBTA on-site improvements – The project should not interfere with normal MBTA bus operations, and allowance must be made for continued bus and subway service connections on-site. The proponent and the MBTA should commit to additional design work to improve the walking environment in this area to accommodate the large number of pedestrians using transit, along with the additional pedestrian volumes that will be generated by this very large project.

4. Hawkins and Bowker Streets – Bowker Street should become a through street with a changed gradient that allows an ADA compliant sidewalk. If Hawkins Street cannot also be made a through street, the stairs that connect its dead-end at Sudbury Street should be re-graded into an ADA compliant sidewalk.

5. North End Access – While the project claims to reconnect long divided Boston neighborhoods, it fails to offer the North End the same pedestrian benefits it does for the West End, Government Center and Bullfinch Triangle. In fact the project design seems to turn its back on the North End. A North End pedestrian connection should be explored in greater detail. The connection should work to interconnect the north-south walkway through the east parcel, North End residents, the two Green and Orange Line MBTA subway stations, and the Greenway.

6. Walk Signals – The existing pedestrian walk signals at the intersection of New Chardon Street and Canal Street will need to be adjusted. The pedestrian service from Canal Street through the newly configured east parcel will siphon existing North Station foot traffic away from adjacent streets. As a result, this pedestrian walk signal and the narrow mid-crossing island may be overwhelmed by the additional foot traffic on Canal Street. All walk signals on New Chardon, Friend, Sudbury and Merrimac Streets should be adjusted to handle the additional pedestrian traffic that the project will create.

7. Narrowing Sudbury and New Chardon Streets – A detailed study of the potential for narrowing both Sudbury and New Chardon Streets is essential. Such a study should include provisions for wider sidewalks, coordinate with improvements being planned for neighboring streets as part of the Crossroads Initiative and potential bike lanes. Further pedestrian crossing improvements should be explored including the elimination (or infill) of the truck turning lanes at the corner of Merrimac Street and New Chardon Street, and at the corner of New Chardon Street and Congress Street.

8. Other pedestrian ways – The document does not address whether the proponent will maintain or improve pedestrian connections that skirt the northwestern edge of the site, from New Chardon Street, up the Brattle Way pedestrian mall and ultimately out towards Cambridge Street. This pedestrian mall/walkway and associated small park area is well used during the day and it should be considered with the project’s design. The short length of Brattle Way could be an excellent candidate for expanded pedestrian use.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the ENF for the Government Center Garage Redevelopment. We believe this site provides an opportunity to develop a transit-oriented, mixed-use project that could showcase pedestrian friendly sidewalks and streets. We hope our comments on the ENF/PNF are incorporated into your requirements for the next phase of design and permitting documents.

Please contact us for any clarification or additional comments that would be useful.


Wendy Landman                                    Robert Sloane
Executive Director                                  Senior Planner