Suffolk Downs Developers Have the Traffic Talk

The HYM Investment Group will be making an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of the 151-acre Suffolk Downs site and $50 million will be going toward investment for traffic flow on a local and regional level.

“This will have an impact on the regional traffic congestion,” said Tom O’Brien, founding partner and managing director.

For expertise in the area of traffic and transportation, John Kennedy, Sr. principal with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) Inc. and Doug Manz, HYM partner and director of development to explain the traffic study that they are currently working on. The officials met last Wednesday night with the Suffolk Downs Advisory Board and unveiled a long-awaited presentation on traffic and transportation issues.

On Oct.24 The HYM Investment Group will be holding a community meeting at the Rumney Marsh Academy from 6-8 p.m. on traffic.

The traffic study will show the impact in 2028 and 2038. It includes a proposed Route 1A reconstruction, Winthrop Avenue reconstruction, Route 16 and Route1 interchange. Over thirty current intersections in this area, of which 17 of these presently exceed the state average for crash ratio.

“We’re trying to address the bottle necks especially the areas where we are adding most of our traffic. I think Mass DOT will become more involved and we’ll start to identify areas that are more regional that the state should be addressing in the next 15 to 20 years,” said  Manz

“When we started on this project we assembled a team that would help work with us on transportation. John Kennedy and his company are who we went to,” O’Brien said. “He’s worked on every major transportation project you can think of. He thinks about things outside the box, he’s thinking about the whole region and a series of improvements that might be made.”

O’Brien said that they knew that they were going to have to spend a significant amount of capital including a significant amount of capital improvements offsite to make the flow work.

“We now know we have to spend $220 million on capital improvements onsite and offsite,” Tom O’Brien said. “We’ve all worked on a lot of projects and that’s a big number.”

For example, all the water and sewer systems in the development have to be constructed since nothing exists there today.

“Of the $220 million, $50 million will be for offsite improvements that we have to make,” Tom O’Brien said. “Everything you see tonight comes from numerous meetings with MassDOT, MBTA, Boston Transportation Authority, Mayor Brian Arrigo and Bob O’Brien, head of Revere’s Economic Development and key stakeholders.”

“Even after we’d added the people and development on site with the improvements we will make throughout the system we’re improving the overall level of service of the roadways around the project and potentially the Blue Line as well,” Tom O’Brien said. “Today many of these intersections are an F. We’re taking the Fs and making them Cs and Ds.”

“This is probably the largest traffic study ever done by a developer,” said Manz. “Casino project that was originally planed at this site had 53 intersections. We’re starting with some bad conditions like Route 1A that has a grading of an F. We also looked at blue line capacity, including maximum capacity, and the Blue Line is in really good shape.”

With the $50 million being spent on 30 intersections that are being improved, the biggest beneficiary is the Route 1A corridor between just south of Boardman Street and up to Winthrop Avenue. A lane with be added in each direction and bring what is known as a super street from an FF rating to a CD.

“Our basic premise is to shift the traffic back to 1A,” Manz said.

Tomasello Drive will be reconstructed to a city standard street. There will be a two-way raised cycle path along Winthrop Avenue and other areas throughout the site and the park. There also will be no loading docks on main street and there will also be shuttle busses. All will be maintained and funded by the developer. There will also be code updates to both train stations.

Kennedy continued and went into great detail about the traffic study. He started with the Route 1A corridor in East Boston near the Marriot Courtyard. A third lane will go all the way to Winthrop Avenue, there are areas for a fourth lane for turnaround or left turn. He said this would increasing capacity from 2,100 to 3,300 vehicles per hour.

“This design is something that’s never been done before in the state,” Kennedy said.

There will be no left turn from Route 1A South to Broadman Street – vehicles will go straight down to the U-turn provided, make the upturn and head directly into Boardman. There will also be a pedestrian crossing.

The entire corridor will be coordinated with signals. There will be no direct left turn from Furlong to Route 1A south bound – there will be a jug handle for cars to come back

“One of the best parts of the design is the on-ramp from Winthrop Avenue. Today traffic has to merge with two lanes coming from Route 1A southbound – under this design they enter and stay in their own lane,” Kennedy said.

On Winthrop Avenue there will be a break in the median strip to let fire engines out without going down to North Shore Road and for making an uturn.

“We are trying to down play use of local streets,” Kennedy said. “In our concern for neighborhood protection, we would like to see Harris Street as one-way from Revere Beach Parkway back one block – to eliminate traffic cutting through – we want to keep that traffic in the regional system.”

Also coming in to play is Bell Circle and the feeder lanes into it, where improvements are being proposed. For this project, HYM officials are dealing with DCR, Mass Historic Commission, and MassDOT.

“We want to improve route 1A so people stay on Route 1A,” Manz said. “These are the beginnings of long conversations about this.”

“Why are we forcing regional traffic into a traffic circle,”  Kennedy asked about Bell Circle. “Make routes that allow through traffic to move through.”

There will also be changes made to American Legion Highway which will have one lane added. There will also be a signalized crosswalk from the corner of the school property across the highway.

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