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$44 Million Investment to Transform Blue Hill Avenue

Multimodal redesign, informed by community process, to make bus corridor safer, greener, and more efficient.

Mayor Michelle Wu and the Streets Cabinet today announced a historic investment to redesign Blue Hill Avenue to better serve bus riders, create safer conditions for pedestrians and drivers, increase the tree canopy, and install new amenities for a more vibrant small business corridor. Due to decades of disinvestment, Blue Hill Ave. riders experience poor road conditions and infrastructure. A new multimodal design will add a center running bus lane for the more than 37,000 bus riders who travel on Blue Hill Ave. every weekday, and better define spaces for drivers and pedestrians creating a safer, calmer experience for everyone. The multimodal corridor redesign is supported by a $15 million RAISE Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). These funds, along with investment by the City and MBTA, will support the design and full reconstruction for Blue Hill Ave. from River Street north to Warren Street that serves the vibrant communities who live and travel along it. Short term improvements will begin this spring to address residents’ immediate concerns on the roadway and adjacent sidewalks, with full roadway construction targeted for 2026. More information about the project can be found here.

The City conducted a yearslong community engagement process through which it collected more than 2,000 comments to learn what Boston residents want for Blue Hill Ave. and will continue to work with residents and local business owners block by block to determine the final design. The final design will aim to provide space for safe and efficient travel for all modes of transportation.  

“This substantial investment in Blue Hill Avenue is a vital opportunity to make the corridor safer and smoother for the residents and commuters who depend on it daily,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “From the majority of commuters in Blue Hill Ave. who are stuck in traffic waiting on the bus, to seniors and families who can’t safely cross the wide roadway to get where they need to go, we’ve heard community feedback that improvements are needed for all road users. I’m grateful for the partnership of our federal delegation in securing significant funding to supplement the City’s investment, and I look forward to a thorough public process working with residents and local business owners block by block to ensure the final multimodal design addresses the needs of those who live, work, and commute along this important travel corridor.”

“Blue Hill Avenue is the heart and soul of Boston that brings some of its most diverse neighborhoods and the City’s downtown center together,” said Senator Ed Markey. “The Blue Hill Avenue Corridor Multimodal Project will make public transit travel through this critical artery safer, more efficient, and more reliable for Black, Brown, and low-income riders. When we make public transit more accessible and more effective, we reduce traffic congestion and harmful emissions – all while improving the air quality for residents. I am eager to see this project move forward with intentional community input and collaboration at its core.”

“The thousands of commuters and residents around Blue Hill Avenue deserve the safer, greener and more efficient roadway that this investment of $15 million dollar in federal funding will help support. This is not just great news for the more than 37,000 commuters who will enjoy faster rides and shorter waits but for the small businesses that will enjoy increased foot traffic and a more vibrant corridor,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“The unjust status quo at Blue Hill Ave has got to change, and I am glad the Blue Hill Avenue Corridor is finally receiving the attention and funding to match the burden it has carried as a critical transportation lifeline for communities in Boston and across the Massachusetts 7th,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “I am proud to have helped deliver the federal funding requested by the City of Boston to invest in not just the physical infrastructure of Blue Hill Avenue, but the people who rely on it to connect them to work, school, and each other. Today’s announcement is an early step towards the visioning of the final design that must balance safety, efficiency, and quality of life for residents, businesses, and community institutions like our churches up and down this critical transportation artery. Our neighborhoods deserve this kind of generational investment in their health, wealth, and well-being, and I am proud to play a part in the transformation of the corridor.”

“American communities are best served by transportation networks that work for everyone,” said Pete Butler, FTA Regional Administrator. “This project will let Bostonians travel through their community on safer streets with more convenient transportation options, whether they walk, move with assistance, ride a bike, take the bus or drive a car. Thanks to President Biden, Secretary Buttigieg and the hard work of the City of Boston, the people of Blue Hill Avenue will live and work in a safer, more equitable community.”

In addition to the $15 million RAISE Grant, the MBTA is investing $11 million and the City $18 million for the project.

“Blue Hill Avenue is a vital link in our network for more than 37,000 MBTA bus riders who depend on it to get to work and school and to receive critical services from across the city and state. Moving forward with a transformative project that includes dedicated center-running bus lanes as part of a multimodal corridor will improve quality of life and enable us to provide the public with improved reliability and service,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the City of Boston to give the communities along Blue Hill Avenue a safer, more accessible corridor by enhancing public transit.”

“The dedicated busway will improve the safety and accommodations of many constituents in my district.  Many of whom are transit dependent and rely on public transit to get to work, school, doctors’ appointments, and many other functions of life,” said Russell E. Holmes, State Representative for the 6th Suffolk District. “Today they are forced to deal with extreme delays, crowded buses, and broken sidewalks.  The dedicated busway improves the lives of these more than 37,000 bus riders and not those who only commute through the district.  Many of those commuters never support the businesses and shops in the corridor.”

“The investments in Blue Hill Ave will mean more people will have reliable and safe transportation into Mattapan Square. Our small business and residents deserve this investment,” said City Councilor Enrique Pepén. “I look forward to continued conversations with the community to design a corridor that works for everyone.”

The City has heard repeatedly from Blue Hill Ave. riders that the corridor cannot remain in its current state. There is, on average, a crash requiring Boston EMS every three days on Blue Hill Ave. The number of motor vehicle crashes per half mile is in the top three percent of Boston’s streets. The multimodal design aims to address safety concerns and the demand for bus use. More than half of travelers on Blue Hill Ave. are riding buses, with more than 3,000 hours per weekday collectively lost by bus riders on this corridor due to traffic and delays. Instead of taking up to one hour, a dedicated bus lane will make the trip from Grove Hall to Mattapan Square a consistent 25 minutes. At 37,000 riders a day, more than any single Green Line branch, this is one of the busiest bus corridors in the state. 

“As a student who relies on the bus to get to school, I experience delays, and crowded and unreliable buses on Blue Hill Avenue every day. I’m excited to see what is possible through this redesign so that all of us can have a safer, easier ride to school,” said Amanda Lawson, a Boston Latin Academy student.

The project will define spaces for all street users which will allow traffic to flow more smoothly, reducing conflict and confusion. In addition to a more efficient bus corridor, the multimodal redesign will create safer pedestrian conditions such as wider sidewalks and more crosswalks, greatly increase the tree canopy, and install new amenities such as better street lighting, benches, bike parking, and public art.

One of the potential designs for Blue Hill Avenue

The Streets Cabinet and the MBTA will work with the community to determine priorities for space allocation and curbside uses. Starting this spring, the City will collect community input block by block to determine the right mix of parking spaces and loading zones, travel lanes, potential bike facilities, and expanded pedestrian infrastructure and green space along the corridor. Preliminary designs indicate there is space for all of the above. With a center running bus lane, curbside parking will be maintained along a majority of the corridor.

"As the owner of a business that has been in this community for over 60 years, I welcome the upcoming enhancement of our sidewalks, streets and overall visibility in this corridor,” said Kevin Canty of Walnut Deluxe Cleaners (700 Blue Hill Avenue). “An overall facelift is long overdue for this community and hopefully will spark a transformation that I’ve noticed in other communities similar to my own, throughout the city. I’m hopeful that the city’s investment in this community will usher in a resurgence in viability for the businesses that currently exist in this area as well as those with future interest in setting up shop along this route.”

“The redesign of the Blue Hill Ave corridor is a win for all. Improvements in street lighting, sidewalks and general infrastructure will benefit not only the shopping districts but the communities as a whole,” said Timothy Francis, owner of P&R Ice Cream and Restaurant (1284 Blue Hill Avenue).

The City will begin with more immediate improvement projects along the corridor while the roadway design is finalized. State of good repair work beginning this spring will include the refreshing of crosswalks and pavement markings, improvements to street lighting, repaving of damaged sections of roadway, sidewalk repairs, median green infrastructure, installation of speed humps on neighborhood streets, and continued pothole maintenance. The City's near term improvements will also seek to improve the experience of bus riders through "climate ready" interventions. New shade structures and green roofs on existing bus shelters will mitigate the impacts of extreme heat and flooding.

“Medians account for a significant amount of real estate in our cities and as critical green infrastructure can be used to collect solar energy, help with decarbonization, stormwater management, and beautification including landscaping and public art,” said Ed Gaskin, Executive Director of Greater Grove Hall Main Streets. “We are excited to learn about Mayor Wu's desire to redesign the medians in Grove Hall as part of a complete street vision for Blue Hill Ave. This will further the transformation of Grove Hall.” 

“It is an exciting time to witness and be a part of the major investment in the shopping district located along the Blue Hill Ave corridor, which I feel is well overdue. This will allow the local businesses more opportunity to grow their business,” said Leon Mulrain, owner of Grove Hall Cleaners (491 Blue Hill Avenue). “As a business owner along the BHA corridor I feel like there will be a significant boost in foot traffic once the sidewalks and lighting conditions are improved.”

Before committing to a reimagined concept for the corridor, the City conducted a yearslong community engagement process collecting more than 2,000 comments from riders, residents, and small business owners. Approximately 23,000 households were contacted as part of the engagement process. This input was used to create a Community Engagement Report, outlining the areas of concern for how the roadway currently operates. The community engagement included audio recordings with road users expressing their thoughts on its current state. These “Real Talk Conversations” were used in this video that the Mayor’s Office released on social media today. City staff found that while there is no full consensus in the community on what Blue Hill Ave. should look like in the future, there is widespread agreement that safety needs to be prioritized and the roadway needs to change.

Today’s announcement builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to safer streets and more efficient and convenient transportation options for Boston’s residents. Earlier this month, Mayor Wu announced the City’s fare free bus program on Routes 23, 28, and 29 will continue for another two years. These routes run along Blue Hill Ave. and over half of the riders on these three routes are classified as low income. Mayor Wu recently launched her Commute with Me series on social media, highlighting the daily experiences of Boston residents commuting to work via public transportation, including on the 501 bus, the Red Line and 9 bus, the fare free 23 bus, and most recently the 66 bus from Allston to Brigham Circle. The City continues to make progress on the Safety Surge announced last spring, installing zones of speed humps and redesigning intersections and traffic signals to slow down traffic on residential streets and reduce conflicts between drivers, pedestrians, and bike riders.

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