State Plans To Improve Charles River Path

Tree-covered with spectacular views of Boston and Cambridge’s skylines, the Charles River pathway system provides a refuge for runners, walkers, bicyclists, and inline skaters alike from all of the pollution and noise of streets. But even though this public amenity is excellent, there is a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately, staff from Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) agree, and have released a study on how to improve several hairy intersections and other major sections of the path.

On Tuesday, a public meeting was held to discuss the status of the Charles River Basin (CRB) Connectivity Study and gather comments from the public. You might remember that David Watson already biked the path with fellow advocates, MassDOT and DCR; he was also at the meeting representing MassBike to give comments on the plan.  MassDOT and DCR’s Planning Office implemented the study in the Fall of 2009 as part of the Accelerated Bridge Program, which will provide over $400 million to improve six structurally unsound bridges along the Charles. Because so many people use the Charles River Path, part of the funding will go toward improving the safety of the pathway, especially where it intersects with the bridges.

As part of the study, MassDOT’s design consultants from Halvorson Design, HDR Engineering, and Alta Planning + Design analyzed the existing conditions of the Charles River Pathway system for pedestrians and bicyclists. The study’s project area spans from the Galen Street Bridge in Watertown Square to the Craigie Dam Drawbridge in Charlestown. Some of the particularly poor areas highlighted are:

  • Elliot Bridge, Cambridge Side
  • Hawthorne Street crosswalk
  • Allston: access is limited
  • Boston University Bridge: no access to path from Boston Side
  • Charlesgate: no access to the Emerald Necklace Park System
  • Longfellow Bridge: poor connections

In addition to specific connectivity issues, other problems include overgrown plants, goat paths, and broken/missing pavement along the trails. Notable public feedback included encouraging the design team to plan for bicyclists of all abilities (namely, children), improving lighting structures, widening the path when possible, and enforcing no vehicular right turns on red lights. The design consultants are set to finish drafting recommendations for improving the overall pedestrian and bicycling facilities by Spring 2012, when another round of public meetings will be held to provide feedback for the recommended bike/ped facilities. For more information, contact Stephanie Boundy at 617-973-8049 or Stephanie.Boundy@state.ma.us.

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