In 2001, Mayor Menino proudly announced plans to build the South Bay Harbor Trail to make it easy for people in distressed areas of Roxbury, the South End, and Chinatown to walk or ride bikes to the Seaport District. The trail would give residents access to both the water’s edge and the Innovation District. But 12 years later, the trail is still cold.
Money is often at the root of such slowdowns. But the nonprofit Save the
Harbor/Save the Bay, which is helping to manage the project for the city, led a successful effort to raise nearly $1 million to design a trail from Ruggles Station in Roxbury to Fan Pier on the waterfront. That was enough to secure almost $4 million in federal funds to build the portions of the trail on public land. Yet only about 40 percent of the 3.5-mile trail is complete.
Problems cropped up on both public and private parcels. The city’s plans to improve Melnea Cass Boulevard conflicted, at times, with the bike trail. Slowdowns also arose on state-owned parcels near a highway underpass. But the stickiest problem involved efforts to gain easements from private businesses along Albany Street, including the Jacobson Floral Supply company. Somewhere along the trail, communication broke down between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the company, which supports the effort in principle but worries about losing access to needed portions of its property. Good-faith efforts by city and company officials should be sufficient to resolve outstanding issues.
Menino has gone to great lengths to expand bike use in Boston. And he’s gone to even greater lengths to improve the lives of residents in the poorer areas of the city. But his administration is on the verge of missing a chance to combine both passions. Menino would do the city and his legacy a favor by ensuring that all permits and construction schedules are in place before he leaves office in January. Failing that, completion of the trail would be a good test of a new mayor’s political and planning skills.
Portions of the trail at Crosstown and at the Gillette facility are complete. There is strong support for the project along the South Boston waterfront. But more must be done to shore up support between Massachusetts Avenue and the Broadway Bridge. Twelve years and counting is too long to wait for the completion of this trail.