Just the Facts: Sullivan Square Design Debate

A summary of what the city, as well as citizen groups both for and against the approved plan are saying.

A summary of the Sullivan Square/Rutherford Ave Design Project, from the BOSTON TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT.

"Today, traffic congestion at Sullivan Square is due to a badly designed and dangerous rotary, not because of inadequate lanes of traffic. The new design:

  • Eliminates the rotary and replaces it with conventional surface streets and signalized intersections to manage traffic-flow,
  • Provides Rutherford Avenue with enough traffic lanes to continue to provide for smooth traffic-flow to Everett and to account for removing the underpass, 
  • Extends Spice Street to Rutherford Avenue to allow for Cambridge Street traffic to bypass the rotary area. 

Today the rotary and the underpass provide a dangerous barrier between the Charlestown neighborhood, Orange Line stations and proposed housing and community facilities and are a blight on the quality of life for local residents. The new design will:

  • Create safe pedestrian-scale streets and crossings connecting to Sullivan Square and Community College stations,
  • Use the newly available right-of-way to provide for a linear park connecting City Square to Ryan Playground,
  • Reorient the intersection of Main and Bunker Hill Streets to reduce cut-through traffic,
  • Increase the amount of on-street parking for Charlestown residents,
  • Create parcels for neighborhood-scale housing developments."

THE OPPOSITION, led by residents Bill Galvin and John Dillon, say the plan will:

  • divert excessive traffic through Charlestown worsening an already difficult rush hour commute
  • be affected by a plan to build an IKEA and other new stores in Assembly Square, which will increase traffic through Sullivan Square.
  • They also argue public meetings on the plan were not properly advertised.


  • reduce congestion, improve bus service and connections to Sullivan Station
  • eliminate underpass
  • create gridded street network at surface to provide drivers with multiple options to move through area
  • build usable green space in center of circle and along edges and create safe pedestrian crossings in area including at JJ Ryan Jr. Playground, add multi-use path to Alford Street Bridge
  • provide 450 on-street parking spaces
  • create several new blocks that can be developed to capitalize on proximity to Sullivan Station, increasing job opportunities, housing, and tax revenues
  • cost $12 million less than a plan that would retain the underpass.
  • They also point out that the plan has been endorsed by the community and the Neighborhood Council after eight well-attended meetings over a course of 18 months.
Rob McArthur May 18, 2011 at 12:04 PM
What traffic studies were commissioned by the opposition to support their position? None!
Dan May 19, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Can we stop on the fact spinning! No one had any traffic studies other than what was done by the city designers. Money! Money! - Folks stop looking at the costs, first focus on what we need to make things workable. Then we can see what we can do later or can be cut. Parking - Lets not get so hyper on all of the new parking spaces one design offers from the other. Parking spaces is like an addiction, you just can't get enough. Yes, we need more but they need to be were people will use them. Have you ever noticed going to a shopping mall early in the morning where are the cars near or faraway from the malls entries? When you go shopping around the holidays don't you curse under your breath having to walk so far to your car... How many of these new spots will be used by residence of C-Town? I wonder.
Dan May 19, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Do you think the CANA project was this easy - Nope! Do you think our piece of the Big Dig went though as quickly - Nope! We went through the whole alphabet and then some! remember Scheme Z and son of Scheme Z. What did we get for holding the line a better design! and better quality of life for City Square and C-Town as a whole! Lets not drink the Kool-Aid quite yet folks. I personally don't like either design option as each fails for different reasons. I also don't think we can divorce our selves fully of the traffic going through Rutherford Ave as some believe we can. Some of it can be better routed but only if the roads are there to route the traffic to. I don't see these needed streets in either design. Making the streets crossable can be achieved without giving up on what makes the underpass design better for thru-traffic. A better design is possible that gets what I think the surface group wants and offers the needed pathways to make sure the commuter traffic does not enter into our local streets - The best of both designs without the failings of either design. We need to press the designers to look outside of the box they are stuck in
nick czech November 29, 2012 at 06:50 PM


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