Civic Agenda Keys on Developments; Menino Announces Dot Ave Traffic Relief Project

Frayed ties in one Dorchester village could lead to another civic group for the Boston neighborhood that already boasts the most, while a long-dormant organization clears its throat to announce its return. As the civic returns from summer break this month, issues of development traffic and safety remain high on agendas across the neighborhood.

A number of major improvement projects continue to truck along, with MBTA station rehauls and various roadway improvements inching further toward completion. Several parks have undergone or are undergoing serious renovations.

Additionally, while violent crime figures are down in Dorchester's largest police district, Area C-11, a burst of high-profile incidents this summer and a rise in burglaries has neighborhood watch groups on alert.

On Monday, during a rare visit to a civic meeting, Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced a new initiative that he said will transform Dorchester Avenue, the neighborhood's commercial backbone, through a series of community meetings. Menino did not elaborate with specifics during the season's inaugural Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association session, but said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he envisions a multi-year, multi-phase project targeted at the avenue's thick traffic congestion.

Currently, a Boston Water and Sewer Commission sewage separation project has disrupted traffic flow on the main drag and on side streets. Kate Barrett, an outside outreach consultant to the BWSC, said the entire project is expected wrap up by the close of 2006. Myles Johnson, another consultant, said the current phase, stretching along the avenue from Linden St. to Columbia Rd., will finish by March 2005, with a pause in construction between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

"If we don't do anything about traffic along Dorchester Avenue, then people are going to avoid it," Menino said, adding that he has planned a meeting next week with Boston Redevelopment Authority Director Mark Maloney, and hopes to discuss a two- or three-year plan that could use state and federal money.

Menino said he conceived of the project earlier this year, and declined to offer amenity details, but said the city during his regime has seen "nothing as drastic as what we're going to be doing on Dorchester Avenue."

Michael Kineavy, the mayor's outgoing neighborhood services chief and soon-to-be policy director, said a series of community meetings stretching the length of the thoroughfare would incorporate broad neighborhood input into the new project.

"It needs to be small enough so that folks have their input, but there has to be an entity that has some degree of control to it," Kineavy said.

"It's been like a moat, something people just don't want to cross," said Jack Cunningham, an Ashmont-Adams activist, of Dot Ave. He said the new initiative could create a more united neighborhood by eliminating a barrier.

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