Boston has launched the first phase of planning to redesign Blue Hill Avenue, one of the city's major thoroughfares. The project will span about three miles, from Mattapan Square to near Grove Hall on the Dorchester-Roxbury line, and focus on improving bus service, safety and public space.
“We feel that this is a part of the city that has been underserved over the last several decades, and it was one corridor we identified that needed action and improvements,” Vineet Gupta, director of planning for the city's Transportation Department, told WGBH News. “It kind of falls between the Orange and Red lines,” he said, limiting transportation options for residents to get to jobs and recreational activities.
Gupta said Blue Hill Avenue is one of Boston's busiest bus corridors, carrying more passengers on buses than almost any other roadway in the city. According to data from the department, MBTA buses shuttle just under 20,000 people along the avenue each weekday between Mattapan Station and Warren Street. Achieving an efficient, steady-moving flow of buses and other vehicles is a city priority.
"The city of Boston is focused on working hand-in-hand with the MBTA to significantly improve bus service along this corridor," he said.
As for public space, Gupta said, “We want to make sure that Blue Hill Avenue has ample sidewalks, areas where people can gather, good access to playgrounds (and) seating,” so that residents can enjoy being in those spaces.
Right now, the department has in its budget about $800,000 in initial investments — $300,000 to gather public input and create design concepts and another $500,000 to redesign Mattapan Square along Blue Hill Avenue. Gupta said the city is also searching for a full-time planner to guide the initiative.
The next phase, public meetings, are scheduled to begin in the fall or early winter, but the city has already launched a public survey to solicit ideas from residents. Fatima Ali-Salaam, the chair of the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council, who has already completed the survey, said that asking residents for their ideas a good first step.
“You have to go in and see what people’s thoughts are,” Ali-Salaam said, noting that the survey asks about what travelers like and dislike about the avenue.
Ali-Salaam said she hopes project managers are transparent and communicative throughout the planning process, especially as it coincides with the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s effort to develop a neighborhood plan for Mattapan.
City Council President Andrea Campbell, who also represents Mattapan, expressed a similar hope for the project.
“What is most important to me is that we are not working in silos for this, but rather have all the stakeholders at the table — city, state, MBTA, residents and community organizations and businesses — to work together on transforming the Blue Hill Ave corridor to be safer and more efficient for both residents and commuters,” Campbell said in a statement to WGBH News.
Gupta said the transportation department’s public survey will remain open until public meetings begin later this year.
“We really want to start learning from people who live in the corridor, and that’s what the survey will do,” he said. “Once we’ve connected all their ideas, we’ll be able to move ahead on redesigning the corridor.”