State Rep. Byron Rushing speaks to attendees after a community meeting hosted by Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard.
The Melnea Cass Boulevard “Complete Streets” redesign project, headed by the Boston Transportation Department, is intended to calm traffic and create a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly street as well as improve the area’s stormwater drainage. First introduced in 2011, the plans have gone through numerous iterations. The current one adds separated bike lanes on each side of the street, new landscaped center medians and traffic-calming elements such as raised intersections and crosswalks.
The project reached a key 25 percent design milestone recently and must be advertised for construction by fall 2018 in order to retain funding, city officials say. With that deadline in mind, construction is expected to start in 2019 — and neighborhood advocates are stressing the urgency of getting the plan right before it’s too late.
A robust community response already has pushed significant alterations to the project — most notably the scrapping of initial plans to widen the street and add dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lanes in the center. While celebrating this victory and showing appreciation for some of the plan’s elements, such as the addition of a bike lane on the Roxbury side of the street, neighbors and advocates want to see several issues addressed before the design is presented for approval. The hearing on the 25 percent design is expected to occur in October.