Residents Pack Hall on Rutherford Ave. Design Meeting

December 13, 2012
By
Some of the residents who attended the meeting last Thursday night.

Some of the residents who attended the meeting last Thursday night.

The highly anticipated meeting to unveil two design options for the Rutherford Avenue Corridor/Sullivan Square Design Project was held on Thursday, December 6 at the Knights of Columbus.

It was standing room only during the last of a series of community meetings hosted by the Boston Transportation Department (BTD).  The meeting was moderated by Commissioner Tom Tinlin.

Design plans were detailed for both the surface and underpass options for the Rutherford Avenue and Austin Street intersections.

Residents argued passionately for and against each of the options but most agreed on one thing; after years of meetings it’s time to get the project off the ground.

The BTD says the goal of both options is to make it safer for pedestrians crossing the busy intersections, give better access to open space areas and the Community College and Sullivan Square MBTA stations, provide multi-use and bicycle paths and come up with a viable plan for dealing with outdated traffic patterns in the area.

Michael Hall, senior project manager for Tetra Tech, the designers of the project, outlined the two options.

The surface option would fill in the underpass at Austin Street and bring Rutherford Avenue up to the intersection.  It would look more like a boulevard with a median separating the north and southbound lanes and include on-street parking spaces.

The intersection at Austin Street would have left and right turning lanes in both directions.  There would be improvements to the Gilmore Bridge and Austin Street approaches with one traffic light and shorter pedestrian crossings.  It would also include a wide buffer between the neighborhood.  The road would be narrowed by about 40 feet away from the community.

The underpass option would keep the underpass in place but would add a 22 foot wide buffer that would improve pedestrian safety and include a multi-use path and pedestrian island between the neighborhood and Rutherford Avenue.  This plan also improves traffic flow.  The underpass option would reduce Rutherford Avenue from six lanes to four.

Following the presentation, residents raised concerns about a number of issues including noise, pollution, traffic coming in from neighboring Somerville and Cambridge, lack of funding and increased traffic in the future.

Resident Bill Galvin, a proponent of the underpass option, says he’s skeptical of the numbers of cars that were counted during peak traffic hours.

“You should question these numbers,” said Galvin.

Another resident said residents should work together to agree on one plan, not argue about two.

Liz Levin, a Bunker Hill Street resident and supporter of the surface plan, expressed concerns about increased traffic.

“We will have everyone’s traffic and construction traffic that gets routed into this neighborhood,” said Levin.

Other residents were concerned about what impact development in the Navy Yard would have on area traffic.

At the end of the meeting Commissioner Tinlin asked for a show of hands for each of the designs adding it was not an actual vote.  Several residents had already left but of those remaining more hands were raised for the surface option.

The Commissioner felt it was a good meeting.

“You’re not going to make everybody happy.  I think all of the questions have been answered and it’s time to make a decision,” he said.

The Commissioner says a decision come could within the next three months.

Currently there is $11.5 million to be used for the final design but construction of the project which could come with a price tag of about $100 million is currently unfunded.

For a detailed look at the surface and underpass designs, visit www.cityofboston.gov/transportation/rutherford