Crucial meeting coming up for Rutherford Ave. project

The current view from Rutherford Ave.- not exactly accessible.

For months Charlestown has been divided over the future character of Rutherford Avenue-will it continue to operate similar to a highway, or become a walkable and bike-able city street? A meeting has been scheduled for Thurs., Dec. 6 that may help decide the matter.

At issue is a proposed change to a formerly community-approved plan to make Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue far more pedestrian and bike friendly area. The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) first proposed the change as an option back in May in response to community pressure from a group that raised alarms about future traffic jams that were not reflected in BTD traffic projections.

The new option would maintain an underpass at Austin Street that the city’s traffic engineers admit is not required to handle traffic and would hinder pedestrian access to Bunker Hill Community College. Regardless of whether or not the underpass stays or goes, a linear park and bike path along one side of the street will connect from the Alford St. Bridge and the border with Everett to the N. Washington St. bridge that connects Charlestown to the North End. That bridge is also slated for reconstruction, and the Union is already working to ensure better bikeways on it.

“The Boston Transportation Department wants your input to select a preferred design,” reads an announcement for the meeting, which will be held Thurs., Dec. 6, 6:30pm at the Knights of Columbus hall, 545 Medford St., Charlestown.

Since the meeting in May, Gerald Robbins, former vice president and one of the founders of the Boston Cyclists Union, has helped found a new neighborhood initiative called the Rutherford Corridor Improvement Coalition. The new RCIC has hosted several community meetings extolling the benefits of the “surface option,” and is now calling together people who support calmer traffic and pedestrian-friendly environments.

“We believe that this may be the last public meeting in which to speak up so that Rutherford Avenue reaches its potential to safely accommodate and integrate all modes of transportation, reconnect the neighborhood, and create long-term land use decisions that best benefits the neighborhood and region,” wrote Robbins in an email. “We are asking residents to support the surface road plan at the Austin Street intersection.”

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