A 1.2-mile stretch in the heart of Beechview is slated for an overhaul. The hope is that the Broadway Avenue Public Realm project will make the neighborhood safer, more beautiful and reinvigorate the business district.
Life is better when you don’t think you’re about to get run over, and residents say Broadway Avenue feels more like a highway than a neighborhood street, with the light rail and speeding cars.
To fix that, city planners have proposed using paint and planters to claim more space for pedestrians, said project manager Felipe Palomo.
“I think what’s going to happen first, it’s going to slow everybody down, and it’s going to make pedestrians feel safer to walk around and maybe shop around the businesses,” he said.
Funds are limited, and state and local officials stressed this is just the first of several phases. Half of the project’s entire $1.6 million budget will go to make just one T station—Broadway and Belasco—ADA compliant. While the T stops are owned by the Port Authority, the agency has not yet committed funding to the project. Officials say those conversations are ongoing.
“The state has stepped up here, to the tune of about $800,000,” said State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline). “Sounds like a lot of money, but it doesn’t go far these days. So we had to prioritize,” focusing mostly on safety.
Right now, cars can go around light rail trains using “slipstreams,” or areas of the road that pass behind the T stops. Those will be eliminated, replaced by either a sidewalk extension or parklets—a sort of pop-up space for pedestrians. While the original plans added bike lanes and eliminated street parking, those changes have been removed from this phase of the project.
At a public meeting Thursday night, Nikki Turner of the group Beechview Complete Streets said she’s optimistic bike lanes could be included in later phases.
“It’s really important to me because we have five kids, and it’s just unfathomable that we might be one of the only neighborhoods in the city where it’s not safe for my kids to ride a bike to the library," she said.
Attendees were asked to vote on different aspects of the project, including where to put a public plaza. The Department of City Planning will produce a final design within a month.
Construction on the Broadway Avenue Public Realm project is expected to begin in 2019.