The city is out with a comparison of two basic approaches for improving Blue Hill Avenue between Mattapan Square and Grove Hall - a massive re-build with construction of dedicated bus lanes and a more modest plan with a massive increase in traffic enforcement by police - and says it expects Mayor Wu to announce a final plan for the road by the end of the year.
Under one of the scenarios presented to residents, officials and groups along the avenue, the city and MBTA would install dedicated bus lanes - similar to the ones now in pace on part of Columbus Avenue in Roxbury - and take other steps to try to convert what is now a sort of semi-highway into more of a community boulevard, including dedicated bus lanes and major tree planting along the avenue.
Under the other, the city would make more modest physical improvements, such as re-striping crosswalks and replanting trees in what are now empty tree wells - but would also beef up BPD traffic enforcement to make drivers obey laws about speeding and giving pedestrians the right of way in crosswalks.
BTD says the dedicated-bus-lane concept would mean faster, less crowded service on the 28, which is already the most heavily used bus line in New England and which carries more people each day than any single Green Line branch. By slowing vehicle traffic and adding bike lanes, pedestrians and bicyclists would have less worries about getting flattened while crossing or traveling on the avenue. And Blue Hill Avenue would begin to feel more like a part of the neighborhoods it traverses, rather than a commuter speedway - coupled with all the trees that would help transform the street from a long, narrow heat island.
According to a summary of community meetings (skip to page 68 for the details), residents who preferred the less expansive approach said they simply didn't trust government agencies - the MBTA in particular - to get it right, were concerned about the loss of parking spaces in front of avenue stores, were worried about gentrification with bus routes that are actually zippy and don't have buses packed like sardine cans and, at least in the case of Mattapan Square, they liked things just as they are. Also, some people - such as families with young kids - simply need cars to get around.
If the city goes with the bus and bike lane model, city planners would spent 18 months, starting this spring, working with residents and businesses along the avenue on specific block-by-block designs, with an emphasis on parking, bicycling and travel lane issues. The city would then put the rebuilding work out to bid, with construction starting in the spring of 2026.
Under the more modest approach, the city would issue an RFP this spring to select an engineering firm that could design the more limited changes, followed by several months of meetings with residents and businesses to refine work at specific locations along the avenue. Work would then begin in the spring of 2025.
Blue Hill Avenue Traffic Plan has more details on the results of the community meetings.