In debut meeting, Morrissey Commission targets June ’24 deadline

Members of the Morrissey Boulevard Commission met inside the Southline building on Tuesday evening. Shown from left: Mayor Wu, BPDA director Arthur Jemison, Rep. Dan Hunt, DCR Commissioner Brian Arrigo, Transportation Secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt, Senator Nick Collins, Councillor Frank Baker. Photo by John Wilcox/courtesy Mayor Wu's office.

Three additional public meetings planned over coming months

A commission charged with coordinating state and city resources to plan critical improvements to Morrissey Boulevard and related infrastructure convened for its first meeting on Tuesday evening, more than one year after a measure authorizing its formation was passed into law.

The meeting convened by the Mass Dept. of Transportation (DOT) agency is the first of four public meetings that officials say will be held between now and next summer when a report is expected to be delivered to commissioners, according to state officials. The commission will then make recommendations to the Legislature, ideally in time for lawmakers and Gov. Healey’s administration to secure funding in state budget planning next year.

The meeting took place in-person at the Southline building — the former Boston Globe —and was also accessible online and was recorded, according to a project page set up by Mass DOT.

Until Tuesday, details have been scarce about the commission’s membership, its scope, and the timeframe of its work. When it was first proposed in a state transportation bill last year, its sponsors envisioned a report on findings by June 2023. Now, that deadline has been moved to June 2024.

The commission is chaired by newly-installed state Transportation Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt. It also includes elected officials who represent the area: Sen. Nick Collins, Rep. David Biele and Rep. Daniel Hunt, and Councillor Frank Baker, along with select officials from state and city agencies, including the state’s Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, the UMass Building Authority, and the city’s Transportation Department.

Mayor Michelle Wu, who attended Tuesday evening’s meeting, said she joined constituents in expressing a sense of “finally!”

“The amazing team at the city has completed our coastal resiliency planning for 50 miles of city coastline, and our attitude is we are ready to be done planning and start doing.”

“Everyone in this room already knows how often Morrissey already floods,” said Wu, who famously stood in the roadway in hip-high boots while campaigning for mayor. “It’s a safety issue not only for those in need, but also for all of the residents on the other side.”

Wu urged commissioners to make sure Kosciuszko Circle— the rotary that is a frequent bottleneck—is prioritized in their final plan.

“This got broken off in the planning process from the rest of the corridor,” she said. “I urge that it can happen in parallel, in tandem.”

Senator Collins, credited by colleagues for driving the idea behind the commission’s creation, said he wants the group to emphasize better connectivity between the east and west, which is now largely divided by the boulevard. Collins also hinted at earlier false starts in planning efforts focused along Morrissey and urged the various parties to stay focused on delivering a finished product by next year.

“With a little bit of a hiccup- we can get off track even if we agree on most things,” said Collins, who said he viewed this process as a “speak now or forever hold your peace opportunity.”

Collins said that improving conditions along Morrissey would not only improve the experience for commuters and future residents, but for people in other sections of Dorchester who must absorb extra vehicular burden when Morrissey floods out.

“Think about what happens when it rains,” said Collins. “It forces people to drive up Columbia Road, Adams Street, Bowdoin- the neighborhoods of Dorchester get crushed. This helps us address an inequity. Dorchester is the biggest neighborhood of the city and it means a lot to the regional economy.”

Councillor Baker said the hazards posed by unsafe crossings on Morrissey and at Kosciuszko Circle had motivated his earliest involvement in civic affairs. His neighbors, he said, have long borne the burden of having highways, railways, and the boulevard cut them off from the waterfront, with the further insults of air pollution to boot.

Baker, who will leave his commission seat to his District 3 council successor John FitzGerald in January, noted: “I’m not going to be here in an official capacity and that concerns me, but the fact that we have a legislative commission in place makes me feel good.”

“Finally we have everyone sitting here and talking," Baker said. "Let’s please try to keep that together.”

Rep. Hunt noted that incremental improvements have been made in recent years to the corridor, including a recent re-design of traffic signals and medians at Freeport Street.

“People in this room should know that a lot of work has been done since the 2017 study put together mostly through DCR. It has gotten us to a more significant design,” Hunt said.

Ethan Britland, who is leading the project team for MassDOT, offered a brief presentation on what the public should expect from the commission’s work in coming months. He noted that the team includes technical support from a group of six different consultants. The group will lean partially on design work that was done in 2017 under the auspices of the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, which brought their plans for rehabbing the boulevard to the 25 percent phase before meetings abruptly ended.


Britland said that evolving conditions since 2017, new climate resiliency plans conducted by the city, and “the significant amount of development pressure” on the corridor necessitates a more comprehensive plan for Morrissey with an emphasis on “improved mobility for all users of the corridor.”

Britland said three additional public meetings were anticipated in early winter, late winter, and spring 2024.

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