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Redesign of Mission Hill intersection hits snag over open space

Posted by Roy Greene  October 12, 2011 01:11 PM

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(Rachel Weiss photo for boston.com)


The intersection of St. Alphonsus Street and Calumet Street has has been a safety concern of residents for years.

Calumet Square in Mission Hill looks exactly as it did a year ago.

To residents, that is precisely the problem.

The city’s proposed redesign of the busy intersection of St. Alphonsus Street and Calumet Street has yet to get underway, due to issues raised by the planned addition of a green, open space.

The intersection has been a safety concern of residents for years because of its lack of traffic signals for both cars and pedestrians. The planned redesign of the area would alleviate those concerns, while also incorporating the addition of a green space, a specific request made by the community.

Last year, city officials said they hoped to push the project quickly through the Public Works Department. But now, they say the green space has triggered setbacks to the redesign.

The addition of the open space, which would entail extensive landscaping, needs the approval of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which wants to ensure that the proposed improvements can be easily maintained. Utilities underneath the roadway will need to be relocated before any landscaping is done, said Para Jayasinghe, city engineer.

“It was the community’s desire to include a lot of landscaping in the area,” said Jayasinghe. “From the city’s perspective, we were willing to do anything, as long as whatever can be built can be maintained.”

The reconstruction would entail moving the curb-line further into the roadway, in order create a ninety-degree angle, which would force vehicles to take the turn more slowly.

The work also would include adding crosswalks, stop signs and lighting, all intended to make the intersection safer for pedestrians.

The city is now negotiating a maintenance agreement with a third party, to handle landscaping of the green space, Jayasinghe said. He said he hopes the negotiations will be completed by November, so that the Public Works Department can request the allocation of construction money before the end of the year.

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission [BWSC] could then begin work on relocating and replacing sewer pipes and other utilities by next spring, he said. Reconstruction of the intersection could begin by late summer. The project is expected to cost upwards of $200,000, according to Jayasinghe.

Residents say the green space is an important design element of the project, and they are eager for the work to get started.

“It’s about time the project got underway. Everyone complained about it—you can see it is designed badly, just by walking by,” said Zach Boutin, a Mission Hill resident.

Abdul Sikdar, owner of Hillside Market, said the redesign will be "a good thing for everyone. As long as the landscaping can be maintained, it will be good for the community.”

The strong community support is what prompted the city to include the landscaping in the roadway redesign, despite the fact that it is now holding up the work.

“It is embarrassing when things take a long time,” Jayasinghe conceded. “The tricky part is when the community asks for something more than we can handle, which is what has happened.

Anywhere else, we would not have planted trees -- we would have just done concrete and left it at that. But here, the community really wanted the additional landscaping.”

A spokeswoman for the BWSC said the agency is ready to bid out the project as soon as it receives the go-ahead.

“We have the plan in place -- we just need to implement it,” said Jeanne Richardson, manager of communications at BWSC.

This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Rachel Weiss, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (l.chedekel@neu.edu), as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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