The City Council Committee on Planning, Development, and Transportation held a hearing on Monday regarding funds from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that will be used for engineering and design services for the reconstruction of Sullivan Square/Rutherford Avenue.
The money, a $200,000 Community Mitigation Fund Transportation Planning Grant, will be administered by the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), and is the second time BTD has received money from the Gaming Commission, according to BTD Deputy Commissioner Jim Gillooly.
Gillooly said that BTD has been looking very closely at resiliency with the way this project is being designed, and they are looking at enhancement to public open space. He said that there are other sources of funds for this project that will cover the cost of design, including federal earmarks that can be used for 80 percent of the cost of design.
With the grants from the Gaming Commission, Gillooly said, “We’re taking a big bite out of the remaining 20 percent that is left for the city to pay.” He said that due to the combination of these funds, the city will end up paying 10-15 percent of the design cost, as opposed to 100 percent.
City Councilor Lydia Edwards wanted to know if there was any way to leverage some of these grant funds for things like crosswalks and police details.
“As this is a planning grant, it can’t be used for those types of things,” Gillooly said. “It’s specifically for planning which will cover design of a project of this nature.”
Gillooly did say, however, that the Encore Boston Harbor mitigation is taking place right now and crosswalks have been refreshed as they worked around Sullivan Square. He also said that BTD asked Encore Boston Harbor if they could put up conduit and connect fiber and copper cables from the ramp to Route 1 and continue it up through Sullivan Square and then over to Cambridge Street where the off ramp is. They will then continue that conduit and cable across the Alfred Street bridge, over to the other side of the Mystic River, where it will be connected to about four more intersections, some of which are in Everett, and a couple in Boston.
“And that’s a deliberate effort by BTD to ignore municipal lines because we do it with Brookline to make sure that we connect a logical corridor together,” Gillooly said. He said this coordination is set to be completed in June of next year.
BTD has also coordinated with the North Washington Street Bridge project to manage about 20 traffic cameras that will provide feedback to the BTD traffic management center in order to help the department “keep tabs” on what’s going on in that area where traffic impacts are going to spread,” Gillooly said. He added that people are going to be encouraged through signage to think about the use of alternate routes, though they won’t be required to avoid the bridge.
He said the Alfred Street Bridge work will be done at the end of May, which will allow that bridge to be working at full capacity. Edwards said that people in the areare concerned that as one area improves, the headaches and problems are just being pushed to another area.
“To have a constant understanding of how the improvements are also going down the line too and being coordinated is vital for our quality of life at this point,” she said.
“We also have that type of a role of keeping a close eye and making sure that number one, the plan for the traffic management is set up in a way that we feel is the best it can be done under the circumstances of all that construction talking place, but secondly, we’re always looking for better,” Gillooly responded.
Edwards added that the biggest concern most people have when it comes to Sullivan Square/Rutherford Avenue is emergency vehicles getting stuck in traffic and not being able to get out of Charlestown to the hospital.
Gillooly said that BTD always gets public safety agencies involved in the planning to make sure that if there’s something that they see that BTD doesn’t, it gets addressed. He added that police details have a “key role” in making sure that they can keep the intersection from getting gridlocked, which will allow emergency vehicles to pass through. “It’s a combination of good planning, the police being in position, and all the good input we get from the public safety agencies,” he said.
As far as resiliency with this project, Gillooly said that keeping flooding out of the area from the Mystic is the “key for resiliency and we’re making that measure by doing the raising of Main Street.” He also said that the Boston Water and Sewer Commission is a “fundamental party,” as they need to continue their current drainage and manage new drainage that will be created under all of the streets from Rutherford up through Sullivan Square.
Gillooly said this $200,000 grant money will be used over the course of next year. “I’m assuming that we’ll be back here next year talking again about another grant of this nature,” he said. “The Gaming Commission sees it as truly what they’re trying to accomplish, which is to try to help people plan and design things that are going to help the area.”