Blue Hill Ave. plans get closer looks via ‘pop-up’ workshops

The MBTA and the City of Boston hosted the latest in a series of public meetings to seek feedback to their $44 million public works project along Blue Hill Avenue last Thursday (June 27) at the Franklin Park Clubhouse in Dorchester. City planners engaged one-on-one with attendees at the open house, which featured large-format maps and renderings depicting proposed changes to the road system, including a controversial center bus lane aimed at improving service on the Route 28 route between Warren Street in Grove Hall and River Street in Mattapan Square.

The proposed changes, which have been in the works for several years, were unveiled last February to mixed reviews. Supporters say the center-running bus lane with raised platforms and new shelters for waiting passengers will dramatically improve the experience for the more than 40,000 people who use buses on Blue Hill Ave every weekday. But opponents say the reconfigured road system will make it worse for motorists and business owners.

Mayor Wu and political allies like US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, US Sen. Ed Markey, and state Rep. Russell Holmes have praised the concept— and the infusion of federal funding that will make it possible – but they also promised more public meeting to solicit block-by-block fine-tuning of the engineering plans.

Last week’s meeting was one of several along the route over the last two months aimed at fulfilling that pledge. Several stations were set up inside the William J. Devine Golf Course Clubhouse with different means of participation. Residents placed suggestion notes on an elongated street map that depicted the avenue. City of Boston transit planner Maya Mudgal was one of the officials on hand to work directly with people who attended.

“This is kind of the culmination of a month long really big engagement push,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of pop-up workshops. People are very excited to sit down at the map and get into specifics.”

Mudgal, 24, started working full-time on this transit project after she completed a co-op program at Northeastern University. The feedback that she and others take away from the workshops will factor into later design iterations, she said, with a new and more detailed layout expected to be presented to the community in the fall.

Ursula Vaughn, an attendee at the event, does not live in Boston, but she has been a part of running Lawson’s Barbershop and Beauty Salon at 1541 Blue Hill Ave. just north of Mattapan Square for more than 20 years. She worries that traffic flow will worsen if the current plan is implemented.

“My problem is that the businesses in Mattapan Square already cannot accommodate parking,” she told The Reporter. “From what I understand from being at meetings prior to this, basically parking will be cut in half once regulated. So, I’m not sure how that’s going to work. It’s going to put a lot of the small businesses in Mattapan Square out of business.”

Vaughn also expressed concerns about not being heard either as a small business worker or as a driver. “They’re not really listening to drivers,” she said. “They’re really gearing toward transit riders but not drivers. I feel like Mattapan is a gateway into the city. You have some of the best hospitals, some of the best schools in Boston. A lot of the times that’s a way of getting into Boston.”

Linda Freeman, a senior citizen who lives in Roxbury, shares Vaughn’s concerns.

“Idealistically, yes, it looks great when you’re putting it in, Freeman said. “But on the practical side of it, you’re forgetting about the residents and the businesses and the churches and the libraries. How are they impacted? Did you bother to ask is this better or is this worse?”

Others, like Jamaica Plain resident Michelle White, see the transit plan as a much-needed improvement over the current system.

“I’m all for it. It’s progress. We can’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done it,” White said. “I want people to have our input so we can tell them listen, ‘That’s not going to work on that corner’ or such.”

Joshua Ricketts finds himself between Vaughn and White’s stances. A Mattapan native and a student at Roxbury Community College, he uses a variety of transportation options to get to and from campus most days.

“I think it could use a few more improvements from local residents,” Ricketts, 21, said. “If I’m going to be honest, I’m also a new-time driver so I’m going to miss the second lane, but at the end of the day it’s going to benefit me because I’m not always going to have my car.”

The MBTA and city of Boston are continuing to solicit input through a survey that can be completed online at

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