This column was first published in the South End News:
As concerned members of Friends and Neighbors of Melnea Cass Boulevard, we write to highlight an urgent situation that many Roxbury residents may not be aware of. On Wednesday March 6, 2013 an important public meeting will be held by the Boston Transportation Department to discuss its plan to widen Melnea Cass Boulevard (MCB), an ill-conceived project that will be detrimental to Lower Roxbury. The project would widen MCB by about 40 feet to add bus lanes, providing little public benefit because there are currently no plans to augment existing MBTA bus routes. The proposed project is at best a knee-jerk response to the availability of federal monies designated for such planning, which might be withdrawn if not used in the near future.
The proposed widening of MCB is a bad idea and an affront to a neighborhood that has seen earlier attempts at disruption for the benefit of others. Already a major thoroughfare cutting through Lower Roxbury, MCB would acquire two additional lanes, rendering it a six-lane roadway - and even wider at some intersections - between Columbus Avenue and Albany Street. This will increase the divide between two thriving residential areas and make it significantly less safe to walk, to ride oneís bicycle, and to negotiate crossing - particularly for our children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
In order for the city to widen MCB, we estimate that at least 200 mature trees will be removed from both the north and south sides, eliminating welcome shade and a source of clean air. Further, it appears the existing bicycle path on the north side will be eliminated and a shared, less safe bicycle/pedestrian strip will be established in its place. Certainly we can expect increased noise and dust from this kind of project if it goes forward and certainly it will contribute to increased air pollution and rising temperatures produced by the expanded asphalt surface areas, the loss of trees and additional traffic.
As a grassroots coalition of individual residents and local organizations, the Friends and Neighbors of Melnea Cass Boulevard promotes a simple vision: a safe, clean, pedestrian-friendly boulevard that brings our neighborhood together. We seek to stop the widening of MCB by spotlighting the projectís serious shortcomings and by insisting that our public officials come up with a smarter alternative-an alternative that respects the residents of Lower Roxbury. We know they can do better.
We urge all those who are able to attend to come to the meeting on March 6th. It may be one of the final opportunities where the public can voice its opposition to a profoundly flawed project. The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday March 6 at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission at 980 Harrison Avenue.